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A roving wiretap "allows law enforcement officers to 'follow' a subject and lawfully intercept that person's communications with a single court order even if the target attempts to evade surveillance by changing telephones or other communications devices."[1]


According to an Assistant U.S. Attorney,

[p]rior to roving wiretaps, law enforcement agents and federal prosecutors had to invest substantial time and resources in obtaining a separate wiretap order for each additional telephone used by a subject during an investigation. . . . [Q]uite often this resulted in a loss of valuable evidence through missed wiretap conversations relating to the criminal activity being monitored.[2]

Before the USA PATRIOT Act, the concept behind roving wiretaps did not apply to FISA.[3] The USA PATRIOT Act amended the electronic surveillance portion of FISA to allow government agents to continue surveillance when "the target of the surveillance switches from a facility (e.g., a telephone) associated with one service provider (e.g., a telephone company) to a different facility associated with a different provider."[4]


  1. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations, at 5.
  2. Peter M. Thomson, "White Paper on The USA PATRIOT Act's 'Roving' Electronic Surveillance Amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, at 1 (Apr. 2004).
  3. Id. at 2.
  4. Pub. L. No. 107-56, §206. See also U.S. Congress, House Comm. on the Judiciary, Subcomm. on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, USA Patriot Act Reauthorization, Statement of Todd M. Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General, 112th Cong., 1st Sess., at 1 (Mar. 9, 2011).