This article describes the legal requirements for governmentinterceptions of wire and electronic communications and some of theadditional procedures and practices followed by federal and stateagencies. The legal requirements are rooted in two pieces of federallegislation: the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (Title IIIof the Act (hereafter "Title III")), passed in 1968, and the ForeignIntelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978. Title IIIestablished the basic law for federal and state law enforcementinterceptions performed for the purpose of criminal investigations,while FISA established the law for federal-level interceptionsperformed for intelligence and counterintelligence operations. We willfirst describe Title III interceptions and then describe FISAinterceptions.2. Title III InterceptionsTitle III, as amended (particularly by the Electronic CommunicationsPrivacy Act of 1986), is codified at Title 18 USC, Sections 2510-2521.These statutes provide privacy protection for and govern theinterception of oral, wire, and electronic communications. Title IIIcovers all telephone communications regardless of the medium, exceptthat it does not cover the radio portion of a cordless telephonecommunication that is transmitted between the handset and base unit.The law authorizes the interception of oral, wire, and electroniccommunications by investigative and law enforcement officers conductingcriminal investigations pertaining to serious criminal offenses, i.e.,felonies, following the issuance of a court order by a judge. TheTitle III law authorizes the interception of particular criminalcommunications related to particular criminal offenses. In short, itauthorizes the acquisition of evidence of crime. It does not authorizenoncriminal intelligence gathering, nor does it authorize interceptionsrelated to social or political views.Thirty seven states have statutes permitting interceptions by state andlocal law enforcement officers for certain types of criminalinvestigations. All of the state statutes are based upon Title IIIfrom which they are derivative. These statutes must be at least asrestrictive as Title III, and in fact most are more restrictive intheir requirements. In describing the legal requirements, we willfocus on those of Title III since they define the baseline for allwiretaps performed by federal, state, and local law enforcementagencies.In recent years, state statutes have been modified to keep pace withrapid technological advances in telecommunications. For example, NewJersey amended its electronic surveillance statute in 1993 to includecellular telephones, cordless telephones, digital display beepers, faxtransmissions, computer-to-computer communications, and traces obtainedthrough "caller-ID".Wiretaps are limited to the crimes specified in Title III and statestatutes. In New Jersey, the list includes murder, kidnapping,gambling, robbery, bribery, aggravated assault, wrongful creditpractices, terrorist threats, arson, burglary, felony thefts, escape,forgery, narcotics trafficking, firearms trafficking, racketeering, andorganized crime.