NPR has an interesting story detailing the surveillance tools used by terrorism investigators in the case of Najibullah Zazi.
Officials say FBI agents in Denver and New York had been tracking Zazi for some time — and experts analyzing the case say the way law enforcement gathered evidence against Zazi and possible co-conspirators may be a textbook case of how to conduct a terrorism investigation. The FBI used a blend of wiretaps and subpoenas, search warrants and local police, among other things, to build its case.
“I think what’s striking about the Zazi case is not so much that new tools were being used, but that old tools were being used in a comprehensive fashion,” says Sam Rascoff, who used to work terrorism cases for the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit. […]
The wiretap used on Zazi was different. In his case, officials tell NPR they asked a judge for what’s called a roving FISA wire tap. (FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.) Roving wiretaps are standard fare in narcotics cases. They allow investigators to link a wiretap with a person, rather than just a specific phone number. It allows for a broader array of electronic surveillance, including disposable cell phones, e-mail and text messages. […]
Authorities got a better look at Zazi’s car a day later, using a special provision of the Patriot Act known as a “sneak and peek.” They broke into the car and swabbed it for chemicals. They found Zazi’s laptop in the car and mirrored the hard drive. And then they very carefully put everything back just where they found it.