Telephone tapping (also wire tapping or wiretapping in American English) is the monitoring of telephone and Internet-based conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The wire tap received its name because, historically, the monitoring connection was an actual electrical tap on the telephone line. Legal wiretapping by a government agency is also called lawful interception. Passive wiretapping monitors or records the traffic, while active wiretapping alters or otherwise affects it. Legal status Lawful interception is officially strictly controlled in many countries to safeguard privacy, this is the case in all liberal democracies. In theory, telephone tapping often needs to be authorized by a court, and is again in theory, normally only approved when evidence shows it is not possible to detect criminal or subversive activity in less intrusive ways. Oftentimes, the law and regulations require that the crime investigated must be at least of a certain severity. Illegal or unauthorized telephone tapping is often a criminal offense. However, in certain jurisdictions such as Germany and France, courts will accept illegally recorded phone calls without the other party's consent as evidence, but the unauthorized telephone tapping will still be prosecuted. = United States =In the United States, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, federal intelligence agencies can get approval for wiretaps from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a court with secret proceedings, or in certain circumstances from the Attorney General without a court order. The telephone call recording laws in most U. S. states require only one party to be aware of the recording, while twelve states require both parties to be aware.