Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping [September 2, 2008] [open pdf - 875KB]
"This report provides an overview of federal law governing wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping. It also appends citations to state law in the area and contains a bibliography of legal commentary as well as the text of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent. It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than five years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys' fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence. Congress has created separate but comparable protective schemes for electronic communications (e.g., e-mail) and against the surreptitious use of telephone call monitoring practices such as pen registers and trap and trace devices."
CRS Report for Congress, 98-326