From the archive, originally posted by: [ mmm ]

FBI wiretap cut off for unpaid bill

By Randall Mikkelsen  /  Jan 10, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A telephone company cut off an FBI
international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time,
according to a U.S. government audit released on Thursday.

The Justice Department’s inspector general faulted the FBI for poor
handling of money used in undercover investigations, which it said
made the agency vulnerable to theft and mishandled invoices.

It cited the case in which a wiretap under the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, which governs electronic spying in terrorism and
intelligence cases, was disrupted due to an overdue bill.

“Late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually
disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results
to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence, including an instance where
delivery of intercept information required by a … FISA order was
halted due to untimely payment,” the audit said.

Inspector general spokeswoman Cynthia Schnedar said she could provide
no additional details on the disrupted wiretap. Much of the report
contained sensitive law-enforcement information and was not released,
she said.

The FISA program, denounced by critics as overly intrusive and
unconstitutional, is up for renewal in Congress. But lawmakers are
bogged down over the scope of the program and liability protections
for telephone companies that took part in a domestic eavesdropping
program launched by President George W. Bush after the September 11
attacks.

The audit followed a 2006 case in which an FBI employee pleaded guilty
to stealing more than $25,000 in confidential case funds intended for
undercover telecoms services.

The FBI acknowledged “widespread agreement” that its 1980s era
accounting system was inadequate and said it was working to improve
it.

“The FBI will not tolerate financial mismanagement,” it said.

{Editing by David Alexander and Chris Wilson}