Only Call Logs Obtained from Cohen’s Phone

NBC News on Thursday corrected its report that federal agents placed a wiretap on President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. According to NBC News, Cohen’s phones were subject to a “pen register,” which allows investigators to create a log of phone calls associated with Cohen’s number.

The original story first reported the wiretap cited two separate sources with knowledge of the proceedings, but three senior U.S. officials later denied the report, emphasizing the correction.

“Correction: Earlier today NBC News, and this reporter said that Michael Cohen’s phone lines were wiretapped. 3 Senior U.S. Officials now dispute that, saying the monitoring was limited to a log of calls (pen register) not a wiretap of Cohen’s lines. We will continue to report,” one of the story’s reporters, Tom Winter, wrote on Twitter following the correction.

The difference is huge, the use of a pen register allows investigators to track incoming and outgoing calls from a number, whereas a wiretap allows investigators to actually listen in on calls.

Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, said its much easier to obtain a pen register than a wiretap.

“While the latter records phone calls and captures private information, the former only tracks phone numbers dialed,” he said. “The Supreme Court has recognized that by dialing a phone number, a person voluntarily shares that information with the phone company, so there is a reduced expectation of privacy.”

Glen Kopp, a partner at Mayer Brown and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, also added that pen registers are fairly common in investigations.

“A judge has to approve the use of a pen register, but the hurdles for obtaining approval are way less than for a wiretap of someone’s telephone,” he said.

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