‘Defending’ Freedom Isn’t Free, Particularly When Wiretappers Don’t Pay Their Bills

The sound you’re hearing is the heads of everyone who cares about civil liberties going BOOM! According to the AP, the telephone companies cut off the FISA wiretap programs when they weren’t paid on time:

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. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.
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 and intelligence 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.

When if came to illegal, non-FISA wiretaps, the telcos argued that they had to wiretap because the Preznit asked them too, and that it was their patriotic duty to do so. Erm, not so much:

”It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being ‘good patriots’ when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills,” said former FBI agent Michael German, the ACLU’s national security policy counsel. ”To put it bluntly, it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when the FBI says the warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail.”

I guess ‘freedom’ isn’t free after all…

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4 Responses to ‘Defending’ Freedom Isn’t Free, Particularly When Wiretappers Don’t Pay Their Bills

  1. Mark P says:

    Well, patriotism and fighting terrorists is great and all, but when we’re talking about money, we’re talking about the really serious stuff.

  2. Dave Briggs says:

    I guess ‘freedom’ isn’t free after all…
    I read this on a bumper sticker. I guess it applies to more things than I thought! :~)
    Dave Briggs :~)

  3. Coin says:

    Wait, wait. This raises a really important question.
    Are the telecoms being paid for the warrantless wiretapping program, too?
    If so, doesn’t that significantly change the legal aspects of what the telecoms did? I.E. doing something illegal because the government asked you to, versus doing something illegal because you were paid?

  4. The Ridger says:

    While I agree this undermines the whole “we did it for the government!” defense, I am stunned that this administration isn’t arguing that they don’t HAVE to pay.

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