Monday, January 14, 2008

FBI wiretaps cut due to unpaid phone bills

You've got to laugh at the surveillance silly season stories like this one. The chink in US government's mass surveillance program might well be irritated phone companies cutting off FBI and other wiretaps due to unpaid phone bills!

"The FBI has hit a major hang-up in its wiretapping surveillance program: failing to pay its phone bills on time.

Facing tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals, a Justice Department audit released Thursday shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

And in at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies."

It gives a new twist to the idea that the piper must be paid. There's also a great quote in the piece from an ACLU lawyer:
"It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being 'good patriots' when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills," said former FBI agent Michael German, the ACLU's national security policy counsel. "To put it bluntly, it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when FBI says warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail."

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