The High Cost Of (State) Voyeurism

Not only does the state want to hear everything you say, it doesn’t want to pay for the privilege.

Hoping to contain “skyrocketing” costs, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has asked the Federal Communications Commission to limit how much U.S. cell phone service providers charge law enforcement to wiretap calls.

After a period of spiking prices, Spitzer’s office now spends a budget-busting $400,000 to $500,000 annually on wiretaps, while some smaller law enforcement agencies aren’t using the basic crime-fighting tactic at all, according to a document Spitzer filed Monday with the FCC.

“Such a cost-recovery scheme (makes) intercepts prohibitively expensive for virtually all law enforcement agencies, and result in depriving law enforcement of an essential crime-fighting and anti-terror tool,” he added.

Cell phone service providers have warned for more than a decade that wiretapping would be an expensive proposition, much more so than traditional phone networks. Furthermore, there are mechanisms in place that allow law enforcement agencies to dispute any wiretapping costs if they feel they are being overcharged, a representative for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), a cell phone industry trade group, said in response to Spitzer’s request to the FCC.

According to Spitzer, a yearlong wiretap costs between $5,000 to $26,400, depending on which U.S. cell phone service provider is doing the setup and maintenance. The CTIA representative did not comment on figures Spitzer’s office provided.

Poor big brother… can’t afford to listen as much as he wants…  <Screaming Baby>Waaaaaaa</Screaming Baby>

Can you tell that I’m not entirely sympathetic to Mr Spitzer? smile


  1. Outlaw3 says:

    Cryinng for them, maybe that is a good thing for us?  I mean, at least there is some physical limit to Big Bro surveilling regular citizens after all!

  2. Mrs. du Toit says:

    No, because we fund their budgets with our money.  The government is US. It would be perfectly appropriate, I believe, for there to be a “cost + 5%” fee charged to the government. 

    If the cell phone companies don’t agree, the government will likely get one of their sic dogs on them and make them culpable for the actions of private citizens using their services (you know like they tried to sue gun manufacturers for being responsible for what gun owners do with their products).

    In the long run, it’s cheaper to just agree to put a cap on the costs.

  3. I don’t know what it really costs to run a cellular wiretap, but I suspect that whatever the real cost turns out to be that Spitzer would complain about it.

    Ultimately, I suspect The Mrs. is right.  Spitzer is making noises now in preparation for trying to find some way to force the cellular companies to accomodate him for free.

    I wonder how long it is before we see Spitzer running for Congress?  He always manages to get his name into the press with stunts like this.  I suspect it’s as much about getting his name out there as it is about whatever issue he’s attached himself to.