So American telephone companies appear to continue to believe that they are om-NI-po-tent.
I was going to call this Giggle of the Day, but really, I feel the FBI's pain too keenly. I'm sure we all do. Who has never been a little late in paying one of those bills? Who has never felt the wrath of Ernestine?
WASHINGTON [AP] — 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. Fine.
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.
Seriously, I do feel their pain. Anyone who has followed the tortured adventures of the U.S. Department of Justice over the last couple of years knows that the people who do the real work of that department have been disgracefully mismanaged by the appointees of the Bush administration and are coping with severe demoralization. It is entirely believable to me that the same people in Washington who are so fixed on fighting for immunity for the telcos from prosecution for illegal wiretapping (as cover for immunity for this rogue administration) just never thought of the FBI's phone bills. Slipped their minds, it did. Never occurred to them.
But you know Ernestine. If she'll cut off Mr Veedle, she'll cut off the FBI, and apparently she has. More than once. A FISA wiretap, even. Holy smokes, Ernestine: don't you realize that your bosses are trying to get themselves out of hot water on that very score at this very moment? Did you not get the memo? Ever heard of Joseph Nacchio? Watch it, Ernestine.
Via bmaz in comments at emptywheel