Federal wiretap authorizations have grown to a record level under Presidents Reagan and Bush. In 1980, the Carter administration requested only 81 bugs and wiretaps. But in his first year in office, Reagan upped the requests to 106, and that number has grown each year since. In 1990, the Justice Department received authorization from federal judges to install electronic surveillance 324 times, exceeding the all-time record of 310 set in 1989. State law enforcement has also increased its use of wiretaps, but at a slower rate. In 1980, state authorities used electronic surveillance 483 times. In 1990, states used 548 wiretaps. Drug cases account for almost all of the increases.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "You're Buggin' Me".