October 02, 2005

Sorry, wrong number.

While wrong numbers are usually just another of life's low-level annoyances, things change when it's the FBI wiretapping your phone by mistake.

A report from the US Justice Department's inspector general reveals that the FBI has amassed over 38 thousand hours of untranslated phone calls that it's obtained using roving wiretap warrants allowed under the Patriot Act. Those hours include a certain amount of 'collections of materials from the wrong sources due to technical problems' — that's FBI-speak for recordings made while monitoring an incorrect phone number. The feds either can't — or won't — say how what percentage of the total is made up of these mistakes.

The FBI could not say Friday whether people are notified that their conversations were mistakenly intercepted or whether wrongly tapped telephone numbers were deleted from bureau records.

Privacy activists said the FBI's explanation of the mistaken wiretaps was unacceptably vague, and that in an era of cell phones and computers it is easier than ever for the government to access communications from innocent third parties.

"What do you mean you are intercepting the wrong subject? How often does it occur? How long does it go on for?" said James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Via AP.

Posted by Magpie at October 2, 2005 02:52 PM | US News | Technorati links |