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FBI Wiretaps Canceled for Non-Payment

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the in-united-states-bills-collect-you dept.

Privacy 166

grassy_knoll writes "Apparently, the FBI hasn't been paying the telcos for the wiretaps they've initiated, so the telcos have canceled the wiretaps. From the AP article linked: '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.'"

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What news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21987328)

The government can spy on the tinest little detail of your life... But, apparently it can't seem to pay it's bills. Even though its the largest consumer of products in the world using public debt funded by social security.. But, according to polticians, thats a problem for the next administration not the current one.

Oval Office Scene.... (5, Funny)

mudetroit (855132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987354)

Dick Cheney walks into the Oval Office... "George Herbert Walker Bush! Do you see this phone bill! I guess we are just going to have to turn it off until you can afford to pay it yourself."

Ha Ha! (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987870)

Your little domestic scene is almost as funny as the bit included in the link:

Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.
These are the cretinoids we are entrusting with Constitutional limitation of power, and enforcing the discretion of the courts?

The Bureau had "no comment."

Re:Ha Ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989166)

Well obviously the supervision was poor, they weren't paying their surveillance bill...

Or even better... (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988722)

"Sir, it seems the phone line has been cut!"

"Well, how do you know?"

"Agent Wasnowsky wanted to post on slashdot and his connection timed out..."

Amnesty (4, Insightful)

kneemoe (1042818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987364)

I can see it now, bunch of old crusty white dudes sitting around a boardroom "Well, if Congress won't get off their asses and grant us amnesty for warrant-less wiretapping we'll just have to get their attention now won't we"

In other news... (2, Funny)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987388)

Without explanation, Telco Accounts-Receivable departments nationwide switch en-masse to VoIP.

Film at 11.

I wish I considered this good news (5, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987390)

When I hear wiretap and FBI in the same phrase, my knee jerk reaction is, especially recently, to attack the FBI. But this is awful. The US does occasionally use wiretaps for their intended purpose and, when they do, it's damned important that they be in-place and reliable. The telecoms are certainly within their rights to refuse service for non-payment, but what kind of a dysfunctional organization can't even pay their phone-bill on time? If my company's phone service was terminated, heads would roll.

Re:I wish I considered this good news (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987488)

The same dysfunctional organization that has abused its warrantless wiretapping power?

Re:I wish I considered this good news (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987548)

No doubt. I'd like to see administrative action for screwing up the phone bill. I'd like to see arrests for warrantless wiretapping.

Re:I wish I considered this good news (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988970)

The "administrators" are Bush & Cheney's Executive Branch that's running the whole shabby criminal enterprise. The "arrests" would have to be ordered by their Justice Department that's operating their big chunk of the whole shabby criminal enterprise.

I'd like to see Bush/Cheney boil themselves in oil on the White House lawn, but as long as that's up to Bush/Cheney, I'll have to wait for the videogame.

Re:I wish I considered this good news (5, Insightful)

CrazedWalrus (901897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987624)

Dysfunctional? Try "inherently flawed".

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


The same people who are watching you to throw you in jail are committing grand theft themselves. Who's watching the watchers, indeed.

Who's watching the watchers? (3, Funny)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987750)

The Jews.

Re:Who's watching the watchers? (0, Troll)

Jerry Beasters (783525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988596)

Troll? Are you fucking serious? Mod funny or don't mod at all.

Re:Who's watching the watchers? (1, Flamebait)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989026)

The guy who modded me down? Also a Jew.

Re:Who's watching the watchers? (0, Offtopic)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989528)

That, my friend, is true dedication to a joke. You'll probably burn in moderated hell for it, but that is damn funny.

Re:I wish I considered this good news (4, Insightful)

morbiuswilters (604447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987500)

You have to wonder how many fuckups like this are never reported. Then we hear that the government can't possibly protect us when they have to follow the law.

Re:I wish I considered this good news (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988954)

Then we hear that the government can't possibly protect us when they have to follow the law.

Except that this is a very true statement.

The fallacy is believing that the government can protect you at all, or that it gives a shit either way.

Once again, Capitalism wins out over Communism. (-1, Troll)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987788)

I think this is awesome. Oh no, the FBI might not get a few pot smugglers or coke or heroin movers. Oh NO!

Re:Once again, Capitalism wins out over Communism. (1)

slackmaster2000 (820067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988158)

How about child porn rings? http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2002/03/18/net-porn.htm [usatoday.com]

You may not like anti-drug laws, and neither do I, but to assume that's all the FBI does is just plain wrong.

With all of *our* tax money that the telcos have sucked up over the years and their long history of unethical business practices, from monopoly to the impossible-to-read bill you receive every month, they can all suck it.

Child porn is a trumped up boogeyman. (4, Interesting)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988332)

Sorry, it's like 'drugs' and 'terrorists'. I don't buy for a second that the supposed threat merits the incredible reductions in privacy and rights the current 'cure' requires.

Life isn't precious to this government, so all this crap about 'for the children' really means 'for more governmental power'. I think of all the poor Iraqi children now dead thanks to our governments' actions and I think "American parents need to step up...they've been mooching off of the tax code forever...wI give them money so they can have the children they chose to have...why must I keep giving up freedoms for them too?!"

I just can't get upset about US children being involved in porn, when there are children all over the world being straight up murdered. We have the blood of many many Iraqi children on our hands...let's fix that shit first.

I'd rather be raped than dead.

Re:Child porn is a trumped up boogeyman. (2, Insightful)

oatworm (969674) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988672)

Contrary to what you might think, the US government isn't engaged in some grand and nefarious conspiracy to expand its extra-constitutional powers. It is, however, engaged in a grand conspiracy to win elections. Simply put, a politician that declares him/herself "tough on child porn", promises "tough measures" and actually delivers them is much more likely to get reelected than a politician that appears "soft on child porn" because they dare to say, "Uh... the federal government doesn't have the right to wiretap the entire US populace, even if it is to eliminate child porn." Until that's fixed, which would require a major attitude adjustment on the part of the electorate (not happening), we're going to get more of this kind of thing. As for Iraqi children, I've never been a big fan of the argument, "Because X is broken in Y third world country, we should fix that first before we fix X' in our country", whether we caused it or not. For starters, just because the rest of the world is messed up, it doesn't mean we have to be. Secondly, we have 300 million people in this country - it's not like we can't do multiple things simultaneously. As for whether we caused women and children to die in Iraq, well, yes, some did die by our bullets, but, unlike Saddam's regime or the fundamentalist fiefdoms that have sprouted up in the wake of the invasion, it's not standard operating procedure with us. By the way, given a choice between getting raped or dying... well, let's just hope that's a false choice. At least dying has the advantage of being final - getting raped leads to your entire life being screwed up 'til you're dead.

You are correct. (0, Troll)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989212)

However, I don't give a damn about WHY it's happening. I just know that it IS happening.

You don't think we need to fix what we broke in Iraq?

Death sure is final...no backsies. Are you implying that rape victims would be better off dead? I don't think you are, but your argument is a little odd. I mean, the victim could always choose to off themself, but if you kill them, then there is no choice.

Re:Child porn is a trumped up boogeyman. (2, Insightful)

Ravon Rodriguez (1074038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988744)

I just can't get upset about US children being involved in porn, when there are children all over the world being straight up murdered. We have the blood of many many Iraqi children on our hands...let's fix that shit first.

If we can't take care of our own, how can we possibly police the rest of the world? I agree that the tragedies overseas are important, but the purpose of a government is to take care of its own citizens first.

Re:I wish I considered this good news (2, Funny)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988694)

The telecoms are certainly within their rights to refuse service for non-payment, but what kind of a dysfunctional organization can't even pay their phone-bill on time? If my company's phone service was terminated, heads would roll.
Umm - maybe - I did a service call on a modem that wasn't functioning in a graphics department, about 12 years ago. The modem was fine, but the line it was connected to was dead.... After checking, the modem line had been disconnected for non-payment. It was just an over site. The only reason it stuck in my mind, was because of the company - it was Bell South, they'd cut themselves off... it was good for a laugh, still is, actually. Mistakes do happen, failure to pay a phone bill isn't dysfunctional.... There are OTHER reasons, however, to use that label. I don't blame the Law Enforcers (FBI). I blame the people they have to work under that cause those kinds of problems by issuing contradictory or confusing orders designed to do nothing more than promote the administrations objectives while covering their own assess. Another aspect of the wiretap thing comes to mind. If it's legal, the way the Administration maintained it was, why so much CYA now? Why does there need to be immunity granted for the past? I suspect, coming back onto the subject at hand, that the reason the payments weren't made, was that someone needed to find a way to pay for them without culpability i.e. If I write a check, do I get prosecuted for rights violations, since I'll be tied to that wiretap....

Re:I wish I considered this good news (2, Interesting)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988810)

While I am normally hesitant to criticize the FBI - after all, wasn't it the crack and elite FBI Passport Recovery Team which was able to miraculously recover Mohammed Atta's passport from the wreckage of the WTC in the aftermath of 9/11/01? (No doubt Atta cranked down his cockpit window prior to crashing and conveniently threw out his passport.)

Having said that, I would question the efficacy of the FBI in any matter whatsoever - they have an long history for taking the credit for the achievements and unquestioned bravery of the US Marshal Service (I'm completely serious now, just check out their history, etc.). When the fewmets hit the fan, the feebs of the FBI always manage to dis-a-frigging-pear into the woodwork.

Maybe that's why, when those recovered hard drives were returned from the German firm of Convar (just having been purchased by Kroll - in charge of overall security at the WTC on 9/11/01) their full bill hadn't been actually paid - ergo, they couldn't tell we, the people, the financial data on those recovered drives pertaining to shorts/puts on the airlines and companies residing in the WTC Towers, and more importantly, any and all currency speculation (the big kahuna, for those who are still clueless) taking part on the computer systems extant in the WTC Towers that day. (Sneaky and diabolical using the systems physically located in the Towers to do the dirty deeds, huh?)

dysfunctional (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989230)

I'm not surprised, and "dysfunctional" is the appropriate word to describe most of the US government. (And I would add most large and many small governments.)

OT, but....

When I was in college, I worked between 3 and 5 part time jobs (mostly tech-related). I had the habit of declaring zero deductions, just to simplify my life. When tax time came, I was expecting a nice refund, but instead I had to pay. Why?

The explanation I got was that "to protect the poor" the state did not withhold money from small paychecks... but still expected the taxes be paid at the end of the year. I checked my paystubs, and, sure enough, nothing had been withheld. Luckily I had some money saved to pay taxes with, but what about other semi-employed people? How is this actually supposed to help poor people?

When I was in grad school and dirt poor, my wife had a child on medicaid. When I finally got a real job, we started getting bills for medical services that should have been covered. The hospital had been trying to bill medicaid for over a year, but when they didn't pay, they would send us the bill. If the hospital used the correct (new) address, we would just call them and they would re-bill medicaid. If they used our old address, the bill would get returned, and then sent to collections (hitting our credit). How is medicaid supposed to help people if they don't pay the bills they cover?

Back on topic...

These many years later, I have contracted with federal agencies and private agencies who have government contracts. I avoid directly being paid by the government. They'll pay, but your check will be delayed, and you never know which expenses they'll decide aren't included in the contract.

Apparently... (4, Funny)

uxbn_kuribo (1146975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987420)

Invading our privacy and violating the Constitution isn't nearly as profitable as one would think.

Re:Apparently... (5, Insightful)

JustOK (667959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988074)

They invaded our privacy already and didn't have to pay for it. I think that's a good step toward profitability by lowering costs. Next step is an increase in regular consumer bills to offset the losses and to cover the eventual lawsuits. Result is, we pay to spy on ourselves.

Re:Apparently... (2, Insightful)

natedubbya (645990) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989238)

It just goes to show that small amounts of money speak louder than millions of angry citizens. The latter hasn't ended one wiretap, the former halted it immediately.


Recommendations (4, Funny)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987432)

From TFA:

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.
11+4 = 15. HOLY CRAP just how bad IS the FBI at tracking numbers?? There's a whole recommendation missing there. It's probably the one that says "don't freaking steal thousands of dollars for personal use."

Re:Recommendations (0)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987642)

Here [wikipedia.org] you [wikipedia.org] go. [wikipedia.org] There'll be a quiz later.

Re:Recommendations (1, Informative)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988024)

LOL how cute. Maybe once you get a better handle on English grammar and basic arithmetic you'll learn that "agreed to do X things but said Y things are unfeasible" implies X+Y things (not a number less than or equal to X+Y). Furthermore, play around with misinterpretations of that sentence and with set theory all you want, you're not going to end up with 16 recommendations.

Re:Recommendations (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988482)

No, "agreed to do X things but said Y things are unfeasible" implies that there are at least X + Y things. "Agreed to do X things but said the the other Y things are unfeasible" would imply exactly X + Y things according to my interpretation.

"3 of the cars in my parking lot have sun-roofs, but 6 are hard-topped." Therefore there are at least 9 cars (there may be convertibles lurking about.)

"3 of the cars in my parking lot have sun-roofs, but the other 6 are hard-topped." In this sentence, we have a total of 9 cars (the potential convertibles have been banished.)

Re:Recommendations (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988664)

Well if we want to get that deep into it, then it starts to also matter what domain you're in. "3 of the monitors in our IT offices are CRT, but 252 are LCD" implies 255 monitors since those are pretty much the only kinds of monitors you can expect would be talked about. In this case, yeah, the other recommendation might still be under consideration, and really I was making a joke with my original post and nothing more. But to have someone step in and throw set theory at me was just stupid.

Re:Recommendations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989144)

So 1 recommendation is not part of set X (Things we will do) or set Y (Things that are unfeasible). This last recommendation is in a third implied set (Things that are feasible but we still won't do). The numbers add up fine. Possibly the last set is (Things that we haven't established the feasibility for yet) or (Things that we are considering but have not yet commited to) or maybe (Things that we don't understand)

Re:Recommendations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21987910)

The first rule of FBI wiretap recommendations is you do not talk about FBI wiretaps.

Re:Recommendations (3, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987980)

Maybe the missing suggestion is just still being evaluated and considered. I mean Following 11 suggestions and rejecting 4 says nothing to any that they haven't agreed to follow or rejected yet.

It might be different if they said something more like agreed to 11 but rejected the other four. But as if now, they have only made statements about 15 of the 16 suggestions and those statements were limited in scope.

Re:Recommendations (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988016)

That brings up an interesting question:

Is it more likely that a reporter, or the US government can count to numbers above 10 while wearing close-toed shoes?

Re:Recommendations (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988718)

You're assuming the the FBI wouldn't agree to do the unfeasible? The four unfeasible ones could be a subset of the ones they are agreeing to do.

Re:Recommendations (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989130)

Failing to follow a requirement means that other requirements will 'trickle down' and means that you're following more requirements.

They're probably following 20 or 25 requirements, but you rule-of-law liberals with your simplistic views of 'mathematics' want to requirement us to death, without releasing that 'implementing less requirements'='following more requirements'.

If it works in economics, it works in math, right?

Re:Recommendations (1)

daemonenwind (178848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989672)

They skipped the "..." recommendation; I can hardly blame them.

#15 and 16 are as follows:
15: .....
16: Profit!

Hilarious Greed (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987452)

The love of money. Source of all things evil throughout the world (that's in the Bible somewhere). And if you're in corporate America, it's also the source of all motivation.

How much is your own privacy worth to you? Can't put a price on it, can you? But it's amazing how fast some people can come up with a dollar amount when it's someone else's privacy. I guess the same can be said about a human life--unfortunately.

Here's something (that is hopefully) a bit enraging to think about. You may be paying taxes to your government that fund an agency to spy on you. Hell, with the NSA wiretapping, the odds are high. How do you like that business model? You're paying for someone to watch you and press charges against you if you do something wrong. What an investment!

And this is all very patriotic of the Telcos, serving their government up until they are past due on payments. All in the name of justice and freedom, indeed! This is genuinely amazing, you just can't even make this stuff up, people.

Re:Hilarious Greed (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987816)

But for real this is all hardly ideal. Ideally we'd be paying taxes to have the FBI/NSA/etc. investigate folks what are *reasonable* to investigate. By far most of us would never have to worry about having our privacy invaded, etc. That is, the FBI and other agencies would be *doing their job keeping us safe.* And, ideally, they'd be doing it competently and paying their bills on time so that they're allowed to do their work!

Sadly neither of those seems to be the case.

Re:Hilarious Greed (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988724)

It's simple to put a price on the privacy of others, for a telco -- cost to build & maintain the required infrastructure, plus markup to make it profitable.

Re:Hilarious Greed (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989004)

Corporations are entities that have no emotion, remorse or ethics.

Like a simple organism, their DNA is to consume money, so I'm not surprised at this situation.

Ohno3z (1)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987496)

Sounds like a perfect time for a turist attack. Easy to blame it on the fact that we cannot tap into the phone lines.

Eh maybe my tin foil hat isn't on all the way.

comment rules for stories about wiretapping: (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987502)

1. make sure to confuse the need to condemn bad and corrupt law enforcement with the need to condemn all law enforcement, good and bad

2. make sure to confuse the need to question improperly obtained wiretap warrants with the need to question all wiretaps warrants, proper and improper

there, now you are ready to flame on in misunderstanding and miscommunication on the subject of wiretapping. enjoy!

What comments are you reading? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988032)

Which comments are you reading? I don't see any of that here, but maybe it's because I don't browse at -1.

The worst I see is the sensible opinion that it's not wise to let an organization that can't even pay it's phone bill have unchecked, unreviewable power. I don't think that can be considered as some kind of attack on law enforcement in general.

Re:comment rules for stories about wiretapping: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988528)

2. make sure to confuse the need to question improperly obtained wiretap warrants with the need to question all wiretaps warrants, proper and improper

You forgot

3. Insist that anyone who says that wiretap warrants need oversight must be "confused" because the magical psychic gnomes used to detect terrorists in the absolute absence of evidence will do the same for improper wiretaps.

they do have oversight. these guys have bosses (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988820)

what you want is adversarial oversight. such as when the democrats go at the republicans in public hearings and such. that is true oversight

but you really can't get adversarial oversight in a process which by its very nature must be secret. even if you said "ok, i understand the need for secrecy, but there's nothing saying you can't have adversarial oversight done by someone who is not of the process who is sworn to secrecy. a true watchdog"

ok, fine. put the watchdogs in place. happy now? no, you aren't

because if the watchdogs are sworn to secrecy, we'll still have people just like you trumpeting the fact that everything is hush hush and secret and hidden. because the only thing that will truly mollify people with a deficit of trust is if all wiretaps are made widely public ...but that absolutely destroys the secrecy needed to catch high profile criminal activity

so it's a catch-22. you can have true oversight, but then all secrets are out. or you can have secret wiretaps, but then you wind up trusting powerful people in government who should not be trusted. you, nor i, nor anyone, will be truly satisfied. and frankly, you never SHOULD be satisfied. because some investigations just really need to be hush hush in this world when going after certain really bad dudes

that doesn't mean i trust a**holes in the administration or the government. it's just that given the choice between giving trust to someone i really don't trust at all, and openly blowing a high profile secret investigation, i'd rather begrdugingly trust the government spook

like much of life, it's a choice between the lesser of two evils, and will never be satisfied to everyone's comfort level

in this world there are people who blindly trust those who shouldn't, and those who have a deficit of trust, and give their trust too cautiously. and who's to draw the line where an appropriate level of trust is in a given situation? no one can do that

welcome to life, welcome to uncertainty. you will never ge tthe comfort with these kind of wiretaps you crave. no one will. ever

Re:comment rules for stories about wiretapping: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989546)

Lets say for the sake of argument that I am a dictator and can make any law I want. Lets also say that I made it legal to shoot any one person you want as long as you get a permit and use a legal gun.

Is that a good law? No.
Should that law be on the books? No
Does making it legal to shoot anyone you want as long as you have a permit excuse the person's behavior? No.
Repeat after me: 'Passing a law only makes something legal, not correct.'

Argument (4, Insightful)

omarius (52253) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987532)

Another puissant argument against "warrantless wiretapping." If these investigations and programs (and agents) are so poorly supervised by the FBI, it's ludicrous to insinuate that the people ought to trust them to do the Right Thing.

I thought they wiretapped out of patriotism (5, Insightful)

alextheseal (653421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987576)

If it really was patriotism that motivated they would let billing issues slide. So I guess this proves we should not give them a pass on the illegal ones since they will stop tapping for money, but not for laws which is the ultimate in contempt for law.

Re:I thought they wiretapped out of patriotism (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987956)

So I guess this proves we should not give them a pass on the illegal ones since they will stop tapping for money,

Actually, regardless of what you think about all the warrentless wiretapping stuff, why the hell are the telcos even allowed to charge for this service to begin with?

If you believe that wiretaps (approved with due process of law) serve a purpose in criminal and/or national security investigations then how the hell can you condone the telcos charging for them? After they have received billions of dollars in tax breaks, Government assistance, laws mandating that they have the right of way to build their networks, Government granted monopolies, blah, blah, blah. After all that, they get to charge the Government money for this service? How much does it actually cost to setup a wiretap on a modern system? I'll go out on a limb and say it's probably all done from a keyboard.

Re:I thought they wiretapped out of patriotism (1)

RembrandtX (240864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989508)

As always, it is the Looters that expect to get money for nothing. The telco's have every right to charge whatever they want for wire-taps. Regardless of whatever kickbacks they have gotten before. To not due so - would be giving up even more rights that the people who's lines they are tapping.

Republican Heads Assplode (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21987602)

As a secular progressive, I'm curious, what is the conservative Republican line on this one?

- Are the phone companies bad for shutting off the FBI and thereby "aidin' terrirsts"?

OR

- Are the phone companies fully justified by free market economics in shutting off a deadbeat government agency that wouldn't even have a budget but stealing it in the form of taxes from hard working Americans?

In Soviet Russia... (4, Insightful)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987628)

...this sort of news is what as known as "disinformation".

So it's OK to let your guard down now because those screwups at the FBI can't manage to pay their bills on time. Sorry, but I call bullshit on that one.
If somebody with clout thinks you need to be watched, rest assured that you are being watched.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987844)

That's the first thing I thought of too. Dear Public,"We got shut off because our bills weren't paid on time." Not said to Public,"We paid them a day late and we're tapping again."

I wonder how much $$$ (2, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987758)

the phone companies are making helping the government spy on us?

Just asking.

Re:I wonder how much $$$ (1)

chriscappuccio (80696) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987846)

I think AT&T or Verizon had a published rate of $1500/month (per wiretap).... Big money, but of course they have to spend big money to bring their old networks up to compliance to support the wiretapping...

Re:I wonder how much $$$ (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988808)

That's a good question, could I pay the phone companies more to not spy on me? I mean, why not? It's clearly a financial decision if this article is to be believed. If that was an option I'd consider getting a phone...

Keep in mind, if you want to reply to me you may not use the word "extortion".

Re:I wonder how much $$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989024)

Why don't you pick up your phone and ask them?

They'll be there, trust me.

How many were rogue wiretaps? (3, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987760)

One explanation for the non-payment could be that these (or some of these) wiretaps were made without authorization, and would not have been authorized if a request had been made. Note that I am not arguing the warrant/warrantless issue, rather, I am suggesting that rogue agents within the FBI set up these wiretaps without even following whatever minimal control procedures the FBI has in place.

Terrorism vs. Civil Rights vs. Being Paid On Time (2, Interesting)

KoshClassic (325934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987794)

Apparently these wiretaps deal with issues that are important enough that the government feels that it needs to set asside our civil rights. Yet these issues and our civil rights are not as important as the phone company being paid on time. Why don't these laws force the phone companies to maintain the wiretaps regardless of when payment is received?

Re:Terrorism vs. Civil Rights vs. Being Paid On Ti (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988342)

I'm wondering that myself. Of course the constitution says that you can't take private property for public use without just compensation so maybe they right is more important then the other rights.

Well, actually, the right that is being pushed aside does have a reasonable test that can be interpreted differently depending on the moods of the courts where there isn't one about taking private property.

But leaving that alone, it is often difficult to get funding from the government in a timely manor. They usually need approved sources that the money can be spent at or on. Unless it is petty cash, and I mean petty, (less the some arbitrary numbers like $10 or so) all expenditures need to be pre-approved by someone not related to the projects and sometimes depending on the amounts in question, it takes more people to approve the spending.

I put in a bid on a county project and they took one year to approve it when the costs were set for 90 days, then I had to resubmit the bid with new costs and it turned out to be higher then another so they wanted everyone to resubmit. When the job finally went through, the payout was split into three sections because of some oversight. We got 1/3 at the beginning, 1/3 half way through and the remaining 1/3 after it was complete. Now the guy that was supposed to certify our project took a leave of absence for some reasons about a week before the halfway point. I had to wait 3 weeks for him to return to proceed with the rest of it and then it took another week to get paid for the final allotment. Something that could have been finished in about 3 weeks took 2 months in total and the part of the payment that should have been profit took almost 4 months after starting before I actually got it. But how this relates to the article is, I can certainly see where the bureaucracy and red tape alone could hold up the payments past the point the phone companies considered it nonpayment. I'm not entirely sure about how long they would wait but something as simple as filling a form out improperly or even filling the wrong form out in the first place can hold up funds for quite a while. And while this might be the FBI agents fault, it doesn't mean they weren't going to pay as much as they didn't pay soon enough.

Hopefully some of the suggestions will be concerning how payments are approves and training on who and what is paid for without as much scrutiny.

Re:Terrorism vs. Civil Rights vs. Being Paid On Ti (1)

TyIzaeL (1203354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988816)

Why don't these laws force the phone companies to maintain the wiretaps regardless of when payment is received?
Because the companies the politicians get rather large campaign contributions from would be quite angry with them.

Re:Terrorism vs. Civil Rights vs. Being Paid On Ti (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988994)

Seig Freakin' HEIL, MOFO!

I think such a law would violate the 13th Amendment [wikipedia.org] to the U.S. Constitution (involuntary servitude) Anti-Slavery amendment.

BTW, this is the same thing that lawyers that get pulled into being on-the-spot Public Defenders in CIVIL cases use to try to get out of working for free at the Government's behest.

Re:Terrorism vs. Civil Rights vs. Being Paid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989370)

Why don't these laws force the phone companies to maintain the wiretaps regardless of when payment is received?


The legal system does and always has. It's called Contempt of Court. When a judge issues a warrant for a wiretap, the phone company has to comply or get a staying order from another judge. If they just refuse to cooperate or demand something from the government in return, then the company gets a nice fat fine and whoever was in charge of the delaying tactic can have their ass thrown in jail.

There are two things to be aware of here. The phone company can not charge fees for a court-ordered wiretap. It would undermine the entire legal system and there would be hell to pay. Also, the phone company can not wiretap without a court order. It is against the law. Not only are there federal laws explicitly regulating the phone system to prevent wiretaps without a court order, but they are forbidden by the higher law of the Constitution. Logic leads to the conclusion that either the telephone monopoly is engaged in widespread contempt of court that has gone unpunished, or the American government is illegally spying on its own people and is paying the telephone monopoly for the service with American tax dollars.

Ah yes, human error and incompatible bureaucracies (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987800)

Human error and incompatible bureaucracies will be the two things preventing 1984 from ever truly coming true...

Instead we'll see Brazil...

Re:Ah yes, human error and incompatible bureaucrac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988470)

Brazil!
Our hearts were entertaining June,
We stood beneath an amber moon,
and softly whispered someday soon! ...ok, I'm done...

Oh Irony (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987848)

I would guess that the Telcos agreed to this purely for profit in the first place, because, seriously, what is the FBI going to do to a coalition of US cooperations. And noww, they aren't even getting paid.

Capitalism at it's finest (3, Funny)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987902)

How soon until we're required to use multiple carriers so the government can negotiate the lowest rate?

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (1)

angus_rg (1063280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988656)

I bet these cancelations won't affect their credit scores, though it may be a genius idea to keep the Deficit down.

Angry mom: "US Gov't..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21987950)

"...have you seen this large bill?? Who have you been wiretapping?!"

Gov't: "IDK, my BFF Jill?"

Hold on a freaking minute here!! (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988040)

Let me get this straight. Dubya wants us to trust him and his 'boys' to listen in on our private lives, and promises that the information will not be misused. Then they go and show us how responsible they are by 'forgetting' to pay the phone bills? Actually stealing money, and other violations of public trust.

Is it just me, or do we need to start fixing the elections ourselves to ensure that there is a clean sweep through all of the US Government?

Diebold has given us a way to do it, and the powers that be keep insisting that it is not possible... Maybe we should just organize it ourselves?

Simple to figure this out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21988090)

1. TELCO agrees to cooperate in illegal wiretaps and get caught.

2. TELCO cuts off some wiretaps due to non-payment.

3. Congressional hearings on #2 diverts attention from #1.

4. ???

5. Profit!

With great power comes great need for oversight (3, Interesting)

jheath314 (916607) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988110)

I've never understood the current mania of increased government powers with less accountability. I'm all for increasing the powers of the spooks to spy, just so long as it is balanced by increased accountability and oversight.

Increasing power while decreasing the oversight consistently gives bad results: at best we see this kind of sloppiness on the part of the FBI; at worst we get the kinds of abuses that have blackened America's reputation around the world.

The people being wiretapped weren't billed. (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21988778)

It could be worse. Back when the FBI was taking down the New York Mafia, the FBI didn't pay the bill on some of their wiretaps. The billing software then billed the other party on the connection, the Mafia guys being wiretapped. It's in Guliani's book about that operation.

Wiretaps are a billable service. See this DoJ document [usdoj.gov]. Search for "Wiretap Fees" in the document. A typical 30-day wiretap costs from $250 to $2600. There are base wiretap fees, monthly maintenance fees, per switch set-up fees, additional switch fees, uninterrupted continuation fees, call-bridging fees, "pinging" fees, extension fees, and fees for activity reports. Prosecutors can't challenge the fees in civil court because the wiretap orders are sealed by a criminal court.

90% of all wiretap requests now involve mobile phones, according to DoJ.

Bake sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989320)

Oh, goodness gracious. Poor darlings. We all need to get together and hold a bake sale to help 'em out.

credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989416)

My mom always told me to pay all my bills on time or it would look bad on my credit report/score. . .does the FBI have a credit report/score??
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