Monday, May 11, 2009

My latest FOIA: DOJ's use of "hotwatch" orders for credit card transaction data

(sent by fax this morning)

This letter constitutes a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. §552. I am seeking records concerning the use of “hotwatch” orders directing credit card issuers to disclose prospective credit card transaction information.


On October 11, 2005, the US Attorney from the Eastern District of New York submitted a court filing in the case of In re Application For Pen Register and Trap and Trace Device With Cell Site Location Authority (Magistrate's Docket No. 05-1093), which related to the use of pen register requests for mobile phone location records.

In that case, the US Attorney’s office relied on authority they believed was contained in the All Writs Act to justify their request for customer location information.

In support of its claim, the office revealed that:
Currently, the government routinely applies for and upon a showing of relevance to an ongoing investigation receives “hotwatch” orders issued pursuant to the All Writs Act. Such orders direct a credit card issuer to disclose to law enforcement each subsequent credit card transaction effected by a subject of investigation immediately after the issuer records that transaction.

A Google search reveals no other mentions of “hotwatch” orders other than the government’s filing in this case. Likewise, a search of Federal and State cases via Lexis Nexis reveals no other information.

I request any records, including memoranda, policies, procedures, legal opinions and statistics concerning the use of “hotwatch” orders or other requests for prospective credit card transaction information. The scope for this request shall include all documents created between January 01, 2000 and May 10, 2009.

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