Reviving Telecommunications Surveillance Law
Consider three questions. How would one decide if there was too much telecommunications surveillance in the United States or too little? How would one know if law enforcement was using its surveillance capabilities in the most effective fashion? How would one assess the impact of this collection of information on civil liberties? In answering these questions, a necessary step, the logical first move, would be to examine existing data about governmental surveillance practices and their results. One would also need to examine and understand how the legal system generated these statistics about telecommunications surveillance. To build on Patricia Bellia’s scholarship, we can think of each telecommunications surveillance statute as having its own “information structure.” Each of these laws comes with institutional mechanisms that generate information about use of the respective statute. Ideally, the information structure would generate data sets that would allow the three questions posed above to be answered. Light might also be shed on other basic issues, such as whether or not the amount of telecommunications surveillance was increasing or decreasing.