The FBI's general counsel, Valerie Caproni, testified today on Capitol Hill that the FBI entered into contracts with AT&T, Verizon and MCI to harvest phone records on American citizens under a national security letter program that has come under fire from Congress and the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General for circumventing privacy laws.
Caproni confirmed during a House Judiciary hearing that AT&T and Verizon, which bought MCI in 2005, had and continue to have contracts with the FBI that compensate phone companies for turning over the toll records of customers connected to counterterroism investigations. The telecoms entered into the contracts in May 2003, according to the report issued last week by the DoJ Inspector General.
"The contract essentially pays for the man hours or the personnel cost for the people who have to do the work," said FBI Assistant Director John Miller in an interview with Wired News last night. "We want dedicated people who handle our requests or do nothing else."
UPDATE: 27B looks into the FBI's use of "exigent letters" to bypass privacy laws and request information from phone companies during terrorism-related emergencies. In less than three years, the FBI sent out at least 739 of these letters. Were there really that many emergencies? We also hear back from AT&T. Read more here.
WIRED Blogs: 27B Stroke 6