More Unsurprising News
Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.
A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.
That's right: the telecoms have cut the lines on wiretaps because bills were not paid. The FBI probably discovered the problem when agents heard this recorded message: "We're sorry, but that line is no longer in service."
While I find it appalling that the FBI is so poorly managed that it cannot pay its vendors promptly, I find it funny as hell that the telephone companies treat all of their customers the same way. And, now that the news on Ma Bell's universal crankiness is out, there just might be some red faces in that industry as well.
The American Civil Liberties Union called on the FBI to release the entire, unedited audit. The group, which has been critical of some of the government's wiretapping programs, also took a swipe at telecommunication companies that allowed the eavesdropping - as long as they are getting paid.
"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 the FBI says the warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail." [Emphasis added]
Congress might want to consider this bit of information when it comes to rewarding the telecoms with retroactive immunity. Sen. Dodd now has another bit of ammunition for his brave, but up to this point lonely stance.
Oh, and Lily Tomlin? It's time to dust off your Ernestine costume.
Labels: Fourth Amendment