The FBI, which has had trouble keeping track of its guns and laptops, also has a chronic problem paying its phone bills on time, according to audit results released today.
Telephone companies have repeatedly cut off FBI access to wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because of the bureau's failure to pay its bills, the audit found.
The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine also found that more than half of the nearly 1,000 telecommunications bills reviewed by investigators were not paid on time, including one invoice for $66,000 at one unidentified field office.
The report identified one case in which an order obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- which covers clandestine wiretaps of terrorism and espionage suspects -- was halted because of "untimely payment."
The FBI says the problem is caused by an outdated financial management system and is working to fix it. The same Post article also points out that an examination of the backgrounds of the 35 employees with access to FBI funds used to pay for expenses for undercover investigations "found that half had personal bankruptcies or other financial problems" and one FBI telecommunications specialist pleaded guilty to "stealing more than $25,000 intended for telephone services."The article concludes by observing that Congress is still divided over the issue of granting retroactive immunity to telecoms that have engaged in illegal wiretapping for government surveillance programs and that the most recent extensions of the foreign wiretap law from last summer expire at the beginning of February.