back to article Wanna tap 3 million phone calls? All it takes is one measly warrant

The US government's annual wiretap report, published this week, has revealed the reach and scope of its agents' surveillance abilities. In 2016, the number of federal and state wiretaps fell 24 percent from the previous year, with 1,551 authorized by federal judges and 1,617 cleared by the states. That's an increase of 11 per …

  1. ma1010

    I know better, but...


    I'm too old to ever expect anything sensible from government (and I work for them, too, which makes me even more cynical), but will they EVER have enough sense to just STOP this stupid "War on Drugs"?

    As the article points out, it does NO GOOD. It sure costs money and erodes freedoms, though. And lots of people die, partly in "business disputes" between drug dealers. I've seen cases where people were killed over a $3 weed deal. Aside from the murders, most drug overdoses are caused by the lack of "quality control" inherent in street drugs. So the "War on Drugs", like any war, kills a lot of people.

    If we accept all these people dying, there must be some kind of major upside to society, right? We fought Hitler for very good reasons, and accepted the cost of lives and money involved. So for this war, there MUST be some sort of major "upside" (for someone other than the criminals who profit from it, that is) for it to be worth carrying on, but exactly what that upside is escapes me at the moment. I suppose it does mean more employment in law enforcement and prison and such, but I don't see that being worth all the casualties.

    I remember quite well when Nixon first declared this "war." It sounded like something worth a try at the time. But it's been quite a few years now, and I have yet to see ANY real benefit to society from this "war," much less a benefit remotely comparable with the costs of it all.

    Time to re-think our strategy, America! PLEASE?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I know better, but...

      As a non-U.S. national (a.k.a. an alien), I don't really care all that much what it is you choose to do at home. The problem is that you've been exporting your war on drugs to all of your neighbors - both in the form of draconian laws mimicking yours, and sometimes in terms of direct interventions.

      If you could please stop doing this, it will be much appreciated by everybody.

      1. ma1010

        Re: I know better, but...

        AC, don't blame ME! I don't even want it going on here, much less anywhere else. I wouldn't wish this crap on North Korea, much less the U.K., Europe, etc. I'd be thrilled if the USG stopped the "War on Drugs" here and actively encouraged our friends and neighbors to do the same.

        Don't expect it to happen anytime soon, unfortunately.

      2. JustWondering

        Re: I know better, but...

        AC: The Americans may be dumb, but they are smart enough to know that when it comes to playing at war, you don't want to be the home team.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: I know better, but...

      @ma1010 - The fallacy of the 'war on drugs' is that criminalizing drug possession/use will stop drug abuse and addiction. I has not and will not. So if drug abuse is going to occur anyway it seems the wise thing to do is legalize all drug manufacture, sale, possession, and use. But too many have a vested interest in the status quo for this to happen. Legalization converts the problem from a criminal and medical problem to just a medical problem.

      The Prohibition Era in the US was a failure with criminals distributing booze instead of legal businesses with the attendant violence. Legalizing booze means there criminals can not easily make money from it and there is no violence associated with the manufacture, sale, and possession of booze. Alcoholism is now only a medical problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I know better, but...

        I hate to tell you this, but the criminals aren't just going to disappear because you legalize a bunch of drugs. The dealers aren't just going to turn around and be burger flippers, nurses and engineers. They'll just find a new criminal enterprise to try their hands at. The only job skills the drug traffickers have are related to crime; decades of criminal recidivism has shown you can't just parlay those into a regular job.

        Sure, legalization would make it easier for the addicts to get the help they need, but it's not going to do nearly as much about the hardened criminals. Simply making drug possession and usage a non-criminal health issue would help the addicts though.

        Really, this is just an attempt to legislate the problem away in reverse.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I know better, but...

      Sadly, like anything else.. follow the money. This war isn't a war, it's a cash pipeline for power (FBI, elected officials). If it were to stop tomorrow, what would the "law and order" candidates run on? What would suddenly happen to the FBI's power and budget?

      Go back to history and look at Prohibition and who made the money and got the power. It certainly wasn't the guy on street selling the illegal booze.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People who supply bad drugs should be busted.

    By the Better Business Bureau.

  3. JustWondering

    War on drugs?

    More like a war on low drug prices. If it wasn't illegal, there would be little profit in it. What is the street price of zucchini? When is the last time you heard about shootouts and murder because of coffee?

    1. Mike Green

      Re: War on drugs?

      "THIS IS A STICK UP! Gimme all the god damn veg you have.... Yeah, open the fridge! I wanna see all the green go in this bag! Wait, is that cabbage? Fuck that shit.... I want the zucchini, the cucumbers, the bananas. None of this cabbage smelling shit. What you say? Bananas are a fruit? Well aren't you a college-going MF? If it can go in your ass, I want it. Now get your ass in there!"

      That was an entirely different type of Fruit Pulp Fiction....

      1. JustWondering

        Re: War on drugs?

        "Gimme the coffee and no one gets hurt"

        Oh wait a sec, that was a girl I used to live with. Maybe i should have picked a better example.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: War on drugs?

      Better parallel, booze and cigarettes, both are legal in the US with the only requirement the purchaser be old enough to buy. The only 'illegal' cigarettes are those 'imported' from a low cigarette tax state to a high tax state and sold on the street. But even in high tax states most will buy from a local retailer. With booze there are dry countries (no sales allowed) but no dry states. Also, moonshining is more a regional (Appalachia) issue with most operations being relatively small scale. Again, most buy their booze from a local retailer, ignoring the existence of moonshine. In both cases, the possession is not a crime and it is the tax avoidance when selling is the actual crime. In the case of moonshine, if one gets the proper paperwork done, one can produce and sell it legally all you want.

    3. GrapeBunch

      Re: War on drugs?

      I'm sure we've had the Canadian equivalent of shootouts and murder over coffee. Angry looks, raised voices.

      Here is the transcript of a conversation found to be non-incriminating:

      "I've got it." "Expect a visitor."

      And the redacted transcript of a conversation found to be incriminating:

      "Did you see [a TV reality show]?" "Yeah, those [deprecatory adjective] [deprecatory noun]. [Copulatory verb] 'em. [Copulatory verb] 'em all."

      Crime: Counselling sexual acts with adults not responsible by reason of mental deficiency.

      Mine's the shovel with two kilograms of ash.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: War on drugs?

        @Grapebunch - I'll give whatever you're smoking a miss, thanks.

  4. redpawn Silver badge

    We'll get that drug dealer!

    And we will only tap all of the phones in the United States until we catch that person. Naturally we'll have to keep a record of all the calls to build cases against paedophiles though.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you want to find bad people

    just look to the national governments and their state security.

  6. herman Silver badge

    The really sad thing is that after tapping millions of phone calls, the result was totally useless.

  7. Jeffrey Nonken

    46 years, Holy crap. That's old enough to have kids of its own, with the first grandkid on the way.

    1. staggers

      @Jeffrey Nonken

      You must be from the north!

  8. herman Silver badge

    Register Bistro Math

    Note that 1240 / 3 million ain't 39 %, irrespective of what you were smoking.

    1. Mr Humbug

      Wrong numbers

      THey got that figure from the number of convictions divided by the number of warrants: 1,240 / (1,551 + 1,617) = 39%

      Of course there's no evidence that 39% of warrants resulted in a conviction, only that the number of convictions is 39% of the number of warrants, which doesn't mean much.

      1. GrapeBunch

        Re: Wrong numbers

        I still think 39% may be overstatement. Conversations involve at least two people. So each successful wiretap investigation should result in 2 or more convictions. Given that they're not shy about charging people only peripherally involved (don't hose down that car, you might get nicked for aiding and abetting a bank robbery after the fact), the figure should be much much lower.

        To a previous poster, there are dry countries such as Saudi Arabia, but I think you mean dry counties. </pedantic> That's why they tap us, right, to catch pedants? "I'll show you your rights."

        1. Mr Humbug

          Re: Wrong numbers

          > I still think 39% may be overstatement.

          I think I said that, didn't I? 39% is derived from a calculatiaon that doesn't mean anything in the first place

          1. Paul 129

            Re: Wrong numbers

            "I think I said that, didn't I? 39% is derived from a calculatiaon that doesn't mean anything in the first place"

            Classic statistics. 39% of wiretaps lead convictions so they're good.

            Not so good is the dollar price these actions.

            Outrageous, riot inspiring, would be the number of individuals monitored

            Ludicrous, the number of calls logged.


            Statistics. Highlight the first, mention a few examples from the second, and bury the data from the last two under any excuse possible.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Wanna tap 3 MEELLION phone calls?

    God, no. Here's a summary of what 98% of those calls would be:

    "And I'm like, no way, and he was like, whatever, and I'm like you shouldn't disrespect me, and he was like you slag, and I was like, Oh! My! God!, I literally can't believe what you just called me, and he was like, whatever, and I was like, I am so not a slag, and he was like, yeah, like, yeah you literally so are, you're a munter, and I was like, just because I go with your brother does not make me a slag it doesn't count if it's in the same family and he's like Oh My God, I literally so just don't believe you said this, and I bought a new lippy it's bring pink and I am like, soooooo cool, and, once he's like finished fingering my sister, he'll be literally so jealous..." ad infinitum... ad nauseam...

    If the US Govt truly want to waste time on this crap, it'll be a nice diversion for them.

    1. earl grey

      Re: Wanna tap 3 MEELLION phone calls?

      I think i just got the nauseam part just reading that.

  10. Peter Fairbrother 1

    3 million with one warrant? pfui, try 8.5 billion...

    The Secretary of State (Boris, in this case) issued a warrant under section 138 of the Investigatory Powers Act authorising the interception of all the 8.5 billion phone calls which were routed to/from/through the UK in the six months following the issue of the warrant.

    Plus 100 billion or so emails ...

  11. Aladdin Sane Silver badge


    Make for the greatest TV show ever.

  12. Gobhicks

    Did you know...

    ... that your Reg "My Posts" page is public? I didn't. Having just found that out, after a few minutes playing with user numbers I can tell you that, as of time of typing, most recent commentard is user number 85184, pjpmd ,joined 3 Jul 2017

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Did you know...

      ...just click on anybody's name...

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