Techdirt reported on this today where Chris Soghoian has received info from a Freedom of Information Act request that shows that the Justice Department made use of a special “emergency” claim to get ISPs to turn over info without a warrant 400% more times in 2009 than in 2008. In 2009 there was a new administration in town. In this case, 91 such requests were made to ISPs in 2009. In 2008 the number was just 17. In 2007, it was just 9. In 2006, it was again 17.
Of course, some might also claim that “only” 91 requests doesn’t seem like that much. I would disagree. It seems unlikely that there were so many emergencies that were so immediate and so crazy that they precluded the (very, very simple) process of obtaining an actual warrant. Furthermore, the 91 number is likely misleading. Soghoian spends a fair bit of time explaining why the numbers in the reports are “deeply flawed”:
A letter submitted by Verizon to Congressional committees in 2007 revealed that the company had received 25,000 emergency requests during the previous year. Of these 25,000 emergency requests, just 300 requests were from federal law enforcement agencies. In contrast, the reports submitted to Congress by the Attorney General reveal less than 20 disclosures for that year. Even though no other service provider has disclosed similar numbers regarding emergency disclosures, it is quite clear that the Department of Justice statistics are not adequately reporting the scale of this form of surveillance. In fact, they under report these disclosures by several orders of magnitude.