The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

FBI wiretaps dropped due to unpaid bills

FBI wiretaps dropped due to unpaid bills

WASHINGTON --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. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent
to steal $25,000, the audit said.

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 investigations, and allow
eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

"We also found that late payments have resulted in
telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines
established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in
lost evidence," according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A.

More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication
surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on
time, the report shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps
from one phone company totaled $66,000.

The FBI did not have an immediate comment.

The report released Thursday was a highly edited version of Fine's
87-page audit that the FBI deemed too sensitive to be viewed publicly.
It focused on what the FBI admitted was an "antiquated" system to track
money sent to its 56 field offices nationwide for undercover work.
Generally, the money pays for rental cars, leases and surveillance, the
audit noted.

It also found that some field offices paid for expenses on
undercover cases that should have been financed by FBI headquarters.
Out of 130 undercover payments examined, auditors found 14 cases of at
least $6,000 each where field offices dipped into their own budgets to
pay for work that should have been picked up by headquarters.

The faulty bookkeeping was blamed, in large part, in the case of an
FBI agent who pleaded guilty in June 2006 to stealing $25,000 for her
own use, the audit noted.

"As demonstrated by the FBI employee who stole funds intended to
support undercover activities, procedural controls by themselves have
not ensured proper tracking and use of confidential case funds," it

Fine's report offered 16 recommendations to improve the FBI's
tracking and management of the funding system, including its
telecommunication costs. The FBI has agreed to follow 11 of the
suggestions but said that four "would be either unfeasible or too cost
prohibitive." The recommendations were not specifically outlined in the
edited version of the report.


On the Web: nal.pdf

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