from the busy-year dept
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.