Are FBI special agents permitted to install wiretaps at their own discretion?
No. Wiretapping is one of the FBI’s most sensitive techniques and is strictly controlled by federal statutes. It is used infrequently and only to combat terrorism and the most serious crimes. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2516, contains the protocol requiring all law enforcement officers to establish probable cause that the wiretaps may provide evidence of a felony violation of federal law. After determining if a sufficient showing of probable cause has been made, impartial federal judges approve or disapprove wiretaps. The approving judge then must continue to monitor how the wiretap is being conducted. Wiretapping without meeting these stringent requirements and obtaining the necessary court orders is a serious felony under the law.