(Newsroom America) -- The government's use of electronic surveillance has increased by 64 percent during the Obama administration, via the Justice Department's use of technology to intercept phone numbers, email addresses and other online information, according to a study of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, government data shows that from 2009 to 2011, the combination of court orders for so-called pen registers and trap and trace devices on phones rose dramatically from 23,535 in 2009 to 37,616 in 2011, The Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, the combined court orders for the targeting of individuals' email and network communications data were far less but still rose nonetheless, from 360 in 2009 to 1,661 through the end of 2011. Combined, the figures amount to a 64 percent increase.
Pen registers record all phone numbers that are dialed from a specific phone, while trap-and-trace devices record inbound numbers to a suspect's phone.
Justice Department officials say civil rights are protected because court orders are sought and obtained before any electronic eavesdropping takes place.
"In every instance cited here, a federal judge authorized the law enforcement activity," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told AP. "As criminals increasingly use new and more sophisticated technologies, the use of orders issued by a judge and explicitly authorized by Congress to obtain non-content information is essential for federal law enforcement officials to carry out their duty to protect the public and investigate violations of federal laws."
In order to obtain a court order, information sought by government agencies must pertain to a specific investigation.
ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said the approval process was essentially just a "rubber stamp," and that courts did not typically scrutinize such requests.
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