Electronic Surveillance Up 500% In DC Area Since 2011, Almost All Sealed Cases

Electronic surveillance is a way of monitoring a home, business, or individual using a variety of devices such as CCTV, television, wiretapping, cameras, digital video equipment, and other electronic, digital, and audio-visual means. U.S. secret law enforcement requests to conduct electronic surveillance in domestic criminal cases have surged in federal courts for Northern Virginia and the District, but only one in a thousand of the applications ever becomes public, according to The Washington Post.

The bare-bones release by the courts leaves unanswered how long, in what ways and for what crimes federal investigators tracked individuals’ data and whether long-running investigations result in charges.

In Northern Virginia, electronic surveillance requests increased 500 percent in the past five years, from 305 in 2011 to a pace set to pass 1,800 this year. Only one of the total 4,113 applications in those five years had been unsealed as of late July, according to information from the Alexandria division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which covers northern Virginia.

The report also mentions, “The federal court for the District of Columbia had 235 requests in 2012, made by the local U.S. attorney’s office. By 2013, requests in the District had climbed 240 percent, to about 564, according to information released by the court’s chief judge and clerk. Three of the 235 applications from 2012 have been unsealed. The releases from the Washington-area courts list applications by law enforcement to federal judges asking to track data — but not eavesdrop — on users’ electronic communications. That data can include sender and recipient information, and the time, date, duration and size of calls, emails, instant messages and social media messages, as well as device identification numbers and some website information.”

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