Telecommunications companies repeatedly cut off FBI access to wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because the bureau did not pay its phone bills, says a Justice Department inspector general’s audit reported by the Washington Post. Inspector General Glenn Fine said that more than half of nearly 1,000 FBI telecommunications bills reviewed by investigators were not paid on time, including one invoice for $66,000 at one field office.
“Late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” Fine said. The audit is the latest in a string of reports from Fine’s office over the past seven years to detail chronic financial and inventory management problems at the bureau, including a persistent failure to account for hundreds of guns and laptop computers. FBI Assistant Director John Miller said that “there is widespread agreement that the current financial management system, first introduced in the 1980s, is inadequate.” The bureau is taking part in an update of all Justice Department financial systems.