FBI building in Washington
A telephone company cut off an FBI international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time, according to a US government audit released on Thursday.
The Justice Department's inspector general faulted the FBI for poor handling of money used in undercover investigations, which it said made the agency vulnerable to theft and mishandled invoices.
It cited the case in which a wiretap under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs electronic spying in terrorism and intelligence cases, was disrupted due to an overdue bill.
"Late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence," the audit said.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said "no investigations were adversely affected."
The audit cited a 2006 case in which an FBI employee pleaded guilty to stealing more than $25,000 in confidential case funds intended for undercover telecoms services.
In response, the FBI's Assistant Director John Miller said that the bureau is working to fix the problems.
"While there is widespread agreement in the agency that the current financial management system, first introduced in the 1980s is inadequate, the FBI will not tolerate financial mismanagement, or worse, and is addressing the issues identified in the audit," John Miller said.
The FBI has agreed to accept 11 of the 16 recommendations to improve the agency's tracking and management of the funding system to prevent such failure in phone bill payment.