That`s Really Funny: FBI Phone Taps Cut Off Over Unpaid Bills

The FBI has failed to pay phone bills on time, causing telecommunication firms to temporarily cut off wiretaps used for terrorism investigations, an audit found.

In a review of the FBI's handling of special funds used for secret operations, the Justice Department's inspector general found an archaic payment system that goes through disorganized third-party offices.

A summary of the audit released Thursday noted that a telecommunication specialist pled guilty in June 2006 to stealing more than 25,000 dollars in confidential funds.

The audit found that the employee had taken advantage of the FBI's mismanagement of bills to steal money from refund checks, as the agency even has trouble cashing refunds from overpaid bills.

The audit concluded that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was particularly bad about paying phone bills by their due date.

"As part of our audit, we analyzed 990 telecommunication surveillance payments made by 5 field divisions and found that over half of these payments were not made on time," the report said.

"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 including an instance where delivery of intercept information required by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order was halted due to untimely payment."

FBI Assistant Director John Miller played down the impact of the phone interruptions and insisted that the agency would modernize its payment system.

"While in a few instances, late payment of telephone bills resulted in interruptions of monitoring, these interruptions were temporary, and in our assessment, none of those cases were significantly affected," Miller said.

source: AFP