Average Cost Per 'Official' Wiretap In The US: $50,452

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Simon Black via Sovereign Man blog,

Last week, in a very, very quiet release, the US Federal Court system published its annual Wiretap report to Congress.

This is something that is required by law; the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) must annually report the number of federal and state applications for court orders to “intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications.”

Note – this report only covers wiretapping orders by US courts; it does not include anything related to the NSA’s electronic surveillance, FBI ‘administrative subpoenas’ to Google / Facebook, the US Postal Service snooping people’s physical mail, or any of this top secret FISA nonsense.

In other words, these numbers add yet another dimension to how vast the US spy state has become.

The report gives a lot of eye-popping details about these official, court-ordered wiretaps, including:

  • Riverside County, California is the most spied-on county in the United States
  • Followed by Clark County, Nevada
  • 3,395 wiretaps were ordered, averaging 29.03 days each
  • The average cost of a wiretap order last year was $50,452
  • The highest cost was $872,841 for a Federal wiretap in the Eastern district of Washington
  • 87.39% of these wiretap orders were connected to drug-related charges
  • Only 18.19% of these wiretaps actually led to a conviction

This last point is worth repeating. Because for all the people who think, “Good, let the government wiretap those evil criminals,” it shows that such tactics are totally ineffective.

In its efforts to continue fighting the War on Plants, the US Federal government, along with dozens of state governments, spent a whopping $50,000 on each wiretap.

Yet the evidence that comes from such wiretaps is clearly underwhelming. There is no ‘smoking gun’ as only about one in five of the wiretap subjects is convicted.

And, as obtuse as it may sound, this is how government prosecutors measure their own success– by how many bodies they incarcerate, regardless of how ridiculous the offense may be.

So using the numbers from this report, for every conviction they get from wiretapping, the government wastes $277,361.19 on other wiretaps that produce absolutely nothing (based on their own metrics for success).

This is a mind-numbing waste of taxpayer / borrowed Chinese money on surveillance that clearly delivers ineffective intelligence.

And for the thousands of people who have been surveilled, it represents yet another egregious violation of what few civil liberties remain in the Land of the Free.

But remember– there are plenty of steps you can take to enhance your freedom, especially when it comes to your digital privacy.

My team and I recently put together a detailed Black Paper on how to defend yourself against these threats– wiretapping, NSA surveillance, and more. And we’ve made it available absolutely free.

It’s a guide to ‘Giving the NSA the Finger… Without Them Ever Noticing.’

You can download it for free here– and, please, do share it with your friends and loved ones.

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JeremyWS's picture

only 18% led to conviction - That seems pretty good to me....

LawsofPhysics's picture

...yes.  Of course the other 89% were politically connnected and the files were "lost".

Long wire tapping...

flacon's picture

"for every conviction they get from wiretapping, the government wastes $277,361.19 on other wiretaps that produce absolutely nothing"

But can you imagine how much more it would cost if we ever had another 9/11 event? Thank God for the government keeping us safe in exchange for a little bit of freedom. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear..... (Goebels)



malikai's picture

Simon's just not seeing the whole picture from the correct economic standpoint to understand the true value of programs like these and the "War on Plants".

How many jobs does this create? How many lawyers, police officers, judges, etc. Not to mention how many jobs in the private sector are created at the prisons and telephone companies. And what's the Keynesian multiplier on $277k per w/t?

Yea, sure, violating you in every way possible is expensive, but think about the jobs!

JPM Hater001's picture

Agreed. Click on the report and tell me you won't "end up on a list" with a straight face. I'm on lists all over the place.

flacon's picture

They start that "list" thing young don't they. Ever since Kindergarten (Infants 1) pupils are put on lists. They even give prizes and awards to the star pupils to take the list to the principal (head master). F'n brainwashing!

MeMadMax's picture

"this is how government prosecutors measure their own success– by how many bodies they incarcerate, regardless of how ridiculous the offense may be."


Now where have I heard this before?


Oh yea... The way they measured "success" in the Vietnam war, but it was dead bodies instead....

pods's picture

Simon is making it sexy!  His Team puts out a Black Paper that the governments don't want you to see.

Now why am I picturing the Dos Equis guy?


TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Now why am I picturing the Dos Equis guy?

It's even better than that. Simon is the guy who hunts for Peyote buttons, taking only those from cacti which present themselves in his path (as described in Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge), and, in his well stocked home laboratory, extracts pure mescaline from them, which he then sells to both the Dos Equis guy and Marc Faber (after making them each leave three or four messages before returning their calls).

Scro's picture

I'll never understand this new math.

McMolotov's picture

18% of the time, government works every time.

Shell Game's picture

Must. Feed. Prison. Industrial. Complex.........

moonman's picture

It's made with bits of real panther

catacl1sm's picture

Sounds about right for a government program....

grid-b-gone's picture

Yet, the U.S. is still #1 in per capita incarcerations. It's expensive on the investigation and data-collection end, and on the conviction end.

200 more per 100,000 than Rwanda and Cuba .... probably due to poor metadata gathering.

New World Chaos's picture

The death of the dollar could be quite liberating (assuming they release the nonviolent prisoners instead of just killing them off with dysentery).  To that end, when calling sheeple whose only crime is supporting the government, I try to spice up the conversation with keywords.  Spending borrowed clownbux trying to figure out what kind of weird trip I'm on might bring the system one millisecond closer to collapse. 


Ghordius's picture

OT: psst! your pyramid says MMXII, we have now MMXIII

Harbanger's picture

30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens. -factcheck.org

Just thought you'd like to know.

akak's picture

And why should one expect otherwise, when probably roughly 30% of the overall US population consists of illegal aliens (and their rabbit-breeding offspring) as well?

Harbanger's picture

11 million undocumented Democrats is 30% of the US population of 313 million?  Someone is lying about the numbers.

akak's picture

Take ALL the illegal aliens who are not just currently within the USA, but who have cumulatively come into the USA over the last 60 or 70 years, AND all their offspring who were born inside the borders of the USA and are therefore automatically US citizens (but never should have been), AND all the offspring of those, and you will likely come very close to 90 million.

As the old saying goes, nits make lice.

Harbanger's picture

It's the beautiful mosaic of multiculturalism.  Is it any wonder the country is splintered into different groups?  It was done purposely.  I thank LBJ, democrat, not that it matters,  for putting us on this path in 1965.

Dark Space's picture

That seemed high, so I checked the "factcheck.org" source, and it disagrees with the statement you are attributing to it. In fact, it states that only 1.6% of State AND Federal prisoners were illegal immigrants and approximately half were in there for no other reason than their status as illegal immigrants. This is substantially lower and these offenders are likely there for a short period of time as they are transitioned to their home countries.

"A Department of Justice report from 2003 found that only 1.6 percent of the state and federal prison populations was under Immigration and Customs Enforcement jurisdiction, and thus known to be illegal immigrants. Half of these prisoners were detained only because they were here illegally, not for other crimes.

The Bureau of Prisons does track prisoners by offense when information is available. By that metric, 10.7 percent of prisoners in Federal (not state) jails were incarcerated for immigration offenses in 2009. In 2006, when Romans gave her report, the figure was 10.2 percent."


Winston Smith 2009's picture

According to that report, in 2012, 2,967 out of 3,395 (87%) "authorized intercepts" were for narcotics investigations.  The "War on (some) Drugs" continues...

buzzsaw99's picture

that means that 18% of criminals are actually dumb enough to use fascist phone lines to conduct illegal business. sum dum fuks. don't answer the phone.

gaoptimize's picture

What makes you think that immediate convictions is the objective?  I suspect dosier building and network discovery are the principal objectives.

Lore's picture

FISHING TRIPS. They have nothing, so try to gather something.

It is so tempting to post anecdotes.

Winston Churchill's picture

Of course, the NSA is just watching the watchers.

Got to have oversight don't you know.

jmc8888's picture

But since the NSA outsource their computers to a private firm, they don't even own the computers they use for spying.

So the NSA is no doubt leaking info like a sieve.

Who is watching those who are watching the watchers?




Jam Akin's picture

Get enough links connected in that chain of watchers and pretty soon unemployment will be below 6% again...

duo's picture

Life imitates art.

From the "Simpsons" movie.  I can't believe they aired that scene on Saturday.


Unprepared's picture

Where does one draw the line between "oversight" and "overlooking"?

grid-b-gone's picture

We all want that possible dirty bomb or other mass destruction device to be discovered before it can do harm. 

As of now, add up all the lives spent on the "war" compared to victims.

Compare both to the human and economic loss of smoking, overeating, inactive lifestyles, drunk driving, or auto accidents. 

It seems some of our danger comes from having not just left things alone that we had no business bothering with in the first place.

It seems some of our actions are just because we can and we can afford (or used to be able to afford) to.

Egypt is a fresh example.

Catching bad guys in spider holes may be preventive action, and in cases like that it is hard to know for sure.

The waste at the federal level is so huge it's hard not to believe our solutions may be an over-reaction, but then again, I buckled my kids into a car seat thousands of times even though I have a perfect driving record. If there ever was a serious accident, I'd wish I had added helmets to the process.

Real Estate Geek's picture

We the people are not your, or the government's, fucking kids.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Where does one draw the line between "oversight" and "overlooking"?

I think oversight is officially defined as less than one box of tissues per eight hour shift.

youngman's picture

Probably could pay for it if they used it to get some good trading picks...

random shots's picture

Riverside, muthafu**er!

Rainman's picture

Located directly at the end of the smog producing tailpipe of LA ..... a county where gubmint officials and developers are one and the same.

mbutler101's picture

You gotta eliminate your competition....

Dr. Engali's picture

Land of the free...that's a good one. Where is this mythical place? Chile?

Unprepared's picture

"The average cost of a wiretap order last year was $50,452"

It enhances my self-esteem to know that someone is paying that much money to "get to know me a bit more". Even better than ShingleMingle.com

pods's picture

Cost is no issue when your job is to keep increasing the debt so as to not let the entire ponzi implode.

I think we need more $500 hammers to smash $300 toilet seats.

'murica, fuck yeah!


Bay of Pigs's picture

"We will save money through procurement"

Caspar "Cap" Weinberger  (aka "Cap the Ladle" for advocating large increases in defense spending).

Sect. of Defense (1981-1987)

FeralSerf's picture

Pardoned by GHW Bush who said  in a proclamation granting executive clemency:   "I am pardoning him not just out of compassion or to spare a 75-year-old patriot the torment of lengthy and costly legal proceedings, but to make it possible for him to receive the honor he deserves for his extraordinary service to our country."


francis_sawyer's picture

"borrowed Chinese money on surveillance"...??????


The only thing I hate more than being spied on & taxed up the ass on are idiots that don't know where the funding is coming from & WHO gets the benefits...