Thursday, January 10, 2008

Telecoms Tell FBI -- No Money, No Spying

If your telephone company has ever threatened to disconnect your service or threatened to ruin your credit over a disputed bill, you will probably enjoy the following story.

It seems that the Telecom companies that the Bush Administration is desperately trying to protect from potential prosecution for their involvement in illegal domestic spying, weren't just doing their patriotic duty. It appears that like every other entity profiting from the "war on terror'", the telecoms are in it for the money.

FBI Wiretap Cut Off After Feds Fail To Pay Telecom Spying Bills | Threat Level from

By Ryan Singel

The FBI routinely failed to pay telecom companies promptly for providing phone and internet lines to the FBI's impressive domestic surveillance architecture -- resulting in at least one phone company cutting off a foriegn intelligence wiretap until the FBI paid its bill, according to an audit released Thursday.

The Justice Department's Inspector General also found that telecom charges and invoices for surveillance overwhelmed the FBI's ability to keep track of their bill and that one field office got a $66,000 bill from a carrier for unpaid surveillance work.

Some of the problems stemmed from telecoms billing multiple times for individual surveillance warrants -- which, in the case of Cox Communications, costs $1500 for a 30-day wiretap order . But telecoms also bill the FBI for internet connections and phone lines that connect the carrier's wiretap-friendly switches with the FBI's wiretap software system known as the Digitial Collection System.

Former FBI agent and now ACLU national security policy counsel Mike German directed his ire at the telecoms who happily played along with the government's warrantless spying and let the FBI illegally get customer records following false promises to get surveillance today with a promise to pay a court order tomorrow.

"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," German said.

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