DOJ Had 400% More Emergencies That Required Immediate Warrantless Info From ISPs?

from the busy-year dept

Well this seems questionable. Chris Soghoian has received info from a Freedom of Information Act request (which only took 11 months) that shows that the Justice Department made use of a special “emergency” claim to get ISPs to turn over info without a warrant 400% more times in 2009 than in 2008. Of course, in 2009 there was a new administration in town (one which campaigned on greater transparency and being against things like warrantless wiretaps). In this case, 91 such requests were made to ISPs in 2009. In 2008 the number was just 17. In 2007, it was just 9. In 2006, it was again 17.


So, either there were a lot more “emergencies” in 2009 than in 2008 (or previous years), or it appears that the new boss at the Justice Department decided to redefine what constitutes an emergency that let’s them spy on internet communications without a warrant.

Of course, some might also claim that “only” 91 requests doesn’t seem like that much. I would disagree. It seems unlikely that there were so many emergencies that were so immediate and so crazy that they precluded the (very, very simple) process of obtaining an actual warrant. Furthermore, the 91 number is likely misleading. Soghoian spends a fair bit of time explaining why the numbers in the reports are “deeply flawed”:

A letter (pdf) submitted by Verizon to Congressional committees in 2007 revealed that the company had received 25,000 emergency requests during the previous year. Of these 25,000 emergency requests, just 300 requests were from federal law enforcement agencies. In contrast, the reports submitted to Congress by the Attorney General reveal less than 20 disclosures for that year. Even though no other service provider has disclosed similar numbers regarding emergency disclosures, it is quite clear that the Department of Justice statistics are not adequately reporting the scale of this form of surveillance. In fact, they underreport these disclosures by several orders of magnitude.

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Comments on “DOJ Had 400% More Emergencies That Required Immediate Warrantless Info From ISPs?”

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23 Comments
TCBloo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Voil?! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate.

This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.

The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-?-vis an introduction, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.

How fitting of you to quote that movie. I’ve got this set as my wallpaper.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No we are more afraid of the boogeymen the Government has constructed for us.

Terrorists, Brown people, Muslims, free thinkers, gays, atheists, etc. etc. the list really does go on and on.

While we are so wrapped up in the hype of the moment, we cast a blind eye to the bad they do… because they are keeping us safe from our pocket boogeyman.

We are fed a constant stream of fear and loathing from the media, and we believe what our self selected sources tell us.

It is ok to have high school graduates with 2 weeks of training feeling up a 10 yr old, so the plane does not explode.
How we can continue to accept this is beyond me.

But they prey on our feeling that we have committed to path X. To consider any other path has got to be wrong, because our path is the only correct path. Any evidence to the contrary is an unamerican plot to destroy the American Way of Life.

Pastor Martin Niemoller was correct… do we need to get that far down the rabbit hole before we wake?

Loki says:

It comes as a total non-shocker that the Obama Administration is beholden to the entertainment industry the same way the Bush Administration was beholden to Big Oil.

Watching Congress and the White House these days is like a poorly executed attempt to emulate Monday Night Raw. The faces and the hells (which is which depends on your particular leaning) all come out and posture to their fanbase, when pretty much everyone knows that at the end of the night the wrestlers are all sitting around together in the back room plotting out next weeks script.

The main difference is their are still a lot more people who still believe politics in this country is real than those who still think wrestling is.

Joseph K (profile) says:

That last quote

The quote at the end totally nullifies everything in this post before it, as well as the title (I’d say you’d buried the lead). The fact that there is a 400% change in whatever bogus numbers they’re officially recording doesn’t tell us anything. The important thing they’re using these “emergency” requests a lot, and they’re lying about it, even in their internal documents, which require FOIA requests to see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Increases in these requests could be easily attributed to training of law enforcement to understand that they have this option available.

We are also still on the “technology roll out”, and since we all know the government is slow on things like this, they could be 5 years or more behind on getting this sort of thing rolling.

They question would be “out of the 25,000, how many were not merited”? I am suspecting that number is pretty low, but nobody seems to want to talk about the validity, only the scale. I call FUD!

Eugene (profile) says:

Then again…the other side of the coin is that, if the previous Department was underreporting its requests, and this Department isn’t (or is underreporting less), then the number on file would *necessarily* be much larger than the one from previous years.

Without knowing how accurate the current department is being in comparison to the earlier department, and keeping in mind that they’re clearly a bunch of lying liars, this data is practically worthless.

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