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Last week the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released its annual report on wiretap use by federal and state law enforcement agencies, and—to the surprise of no one who follows such Fourth Amendment-related subjects—wiretaps are increasing. In 2010, state and federal investigators received 3,194 wiretap orders—34 percent more than in 2009.

The wiretaps aren’t being used for terrorism-monitoring purposes, but mostly for what Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute calls “ordinary law enforcement purposes”—investigations into crimes involving drugs, racketeering, and the like. In fact, 84 percent of wiretap orders were given for drug investigations. In Cook and DuPage Counties, all authorized wiretaps were for narcotics investigations; same goes for the U.S. Northern District of Illinois, minus two racketeering investigations.Given that wiretaps cost an estimated average of $52,000 a pop, that’s one expensive drug war. (Other reports price wiretaps between $1,000 to $500,000.)