Timothy B. Lee
September 28, 2012
Statistics obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union provides additional evidence that government surveillance of Americans has skyrocketed in recent years. The government is legally obligated to release reports about its surveillance activities, but it refused to do so until the ACLU sued to compel the production of the documents.
The reports concern what lawyers call “pen register” and “trap and trace” records. These terms originally referred to hardware devices law enforcement could attach to the phone network to capture information about (but not the contents of) phone calls. Pen registers recorded outgoing phone numbers. Trap and trace devices recorded incoming phone numbers.
Today’s telephone networks have the ability to capture this information without any special equipment. And the government has expanded the concept to include other forms of communication such as email.