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Sorry, Wrong Wiretap 166

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the saying-oops-makes-it-ok dept.
Rick Zeman writes "CNN is covering a little-mentioned Inspector General's report which mentions that the FBI 'sometimes gets the wrong number when it intercepts conversations in terrorism investigations' due to various reasons, and that '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.'"
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Sorry, Wrong Wiretap

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  • sounds like... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KillShill (877105)
    the perfect excuse.
    • Don't ya love FISA and the USAPATRIOT act?
      • They remind me of the Gestapo and KGB!

        Falcon
    • No Knock (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:33PM (#13695336) Homepage Journal
      The government has established that police can collect evidence against people without a warrant (or other due process) when they "mistakenly" violate the security of people's persons, houses, papers and effects [findlaw.com], if the police make the mistake "in good faith". Here in NYC, the cops go to apartment buildings where known offenders (like drug dealers) live, then break in neighbors' doors (on different floors, sometimes), look around, and score a bust without a warrant when they find something. Fourth Amendment? [findlaw.com] That's as quaint as the Geneva Conventions [msn.com].

      How will Chief Justice Roberts rule on torture [nwsource.com] of "mistakenly" captured people? The Supreme Court Chief Justice controls the secret FISA court [hiwaay.net] which governs domestic spying. Not to mention the Chief Justice's control of whether foreign rulings have legal standing in American courts. When the government tortures to death Harry Buttle instead of Harry Tuttle [wikipedia.org], will Mrs. Buttle even be entitled to a refund?
  • by elwin_windleaf (643442) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:07PM (#13694994) Homepage
    I wonder if anything picked up on a unintentional wiretap is still admissable in court - could provide for a nasty loop hole...
    • Or perhaps I should have read the first paragraph in the article...
    • *smash* Sorry about that...you might want to fix your door...
    • generally if it's the result of a 'good faith mistake,' ie a clerical error, or improperly labled addresses, evidance obtained in search warrant is admissible even when they end up searching the wrong house / building.
      I'd believe the same train of thought would be applicable to this, a good faith effort to tap the right phone and end up with the wrong one would probably still be admissable in court.
      • Do you have any clue what you are talking about?

        Wiretaps are only given with permission of a court to a specific person (or specific people). Being permitted by a judge to wiretap a suspected bomb plotter and then accidentily tapping the wrong line and overhearing someone doing a drug deal is not a "good faith" effort. You were not making an effort to tap the WRONG phone (how can it be a "good faith" effort to admit into evidence of a phone line you didn't mean to tap?). You were not given permission to tap
    • by wirehead_rick (308391) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:36PM (#13695126)
      Really. Especially if for X reason you are decided to be a terrorist and get shipped off to Gitmo.

      No notice to family. No procedures. They just come in grab you and send you off. No phone call to a lawyer. No reasons. Just get hauled off into the gulag for no reason (except to the FBI's whims - say you have a contrarian political view and are deemed a _political_ threat).

      The long slope into a blatent facist state we have embarked on.
  • Not admissable (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by SPYvSPY (166790)
    The good news is that even if they hear it, they likely can't use it against you in court. Does anyone expect privacy on the phone lines anyway? If you do, and you're up to no good, you're an idiot.
    • Re:Not admissable (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Does anyone expect privacy on the phone lines anyway? If you do, and you're up to no good, you're an idiot.

      Now that's a fucking lame excuse for breaking my rights.
      • You sound like you have something to hide. Please report to the nearest re-education center for your own safety.
      • I never said it was correct to violate your rights. I *did* say that if you expect people to respect your rights to the point of trusting unencrypted communications, you are a fool.
    • No, they already can't use it against you in court, I understand. But that may not be good enough. A more important question is whether or not they may begin additional investigation of people based upon what they accidentally pick up during an erroneous tap. That would be a real problem.
      • A more important question is whether or not they may begin additional investigation of people based upon what they accidentally pick up during an erroneous tap. That would be a real problem.

        They "may" not do so legally, due to the exclusionary rule and various other bits of case law.

        However, even though this isn't "supposed" to happen, if a cop who accidentally gains information passes that along to someone else informally, especially someone in a different LEA branch, who then acts on a hunch and star

    • That nobody ever says anything incriminating, perhaps in a joking manner, on the phone. There are a lot of things said jokingly or in passing that could - if somebody wanted to - be interpreted in a much more sinister manner. Hell, the drug dealers are probably safer, since they'll be watching what they say and probably refer to their activities in a more referential manner.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:13PM (#13695031) Journal
    To put the tinfoil hats away, or throw them out. Some want us to believe that the government is capable of all this conspiracy crap.... Hell, they can't even use the toilet by themselves if you look at stories like this one. Carnivore was supposed to be scary... the only real thing scary about it was the shortage of harddrives that it promised to create storing all those email messages... and I KNOW they weren't going to get away with using Exchange to store them!

    The government might be ominous, but its run by humans, and they are too busy tripping on their own resume's to do anything truthfully scary. Its only individuals who are left without oversight that can be scary... groups of people.. pfft! Hitler and Mousolini were individuals... groups of people just don't manage to get it together fast enough or hard enough... self regulating so to speak...

    Now, if individuals are doing wiretaps... could be different
    • by mpontes (878663) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:17PM (#13695047)
      Hey, why does your IP resolve to a .gov hostname? *ducks*
    • Just want to endorse the parent. I'd like to see the FBI tap and sort my 400 kb/s bittorrent traffic that goes on 24/7. Then try and find an AIM message which looks corrupted because it's encrypted anyway.
      • by secolactico (519805) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:52PM (#13695167) Journal
        Just want to endorse the parent. I'd like to see the FBI tap and sort my 400 kb/s bittorrent traffic that goes on 24/7. Then try and find an AIM message which looks corrupted because it's encrypted anyway.

        Good evening citizen, and thanks for granting explicit permission for us to wiretap your internet connection. Now if you'd be so kind as to provide us with your IP address, we can proceed at once.

        Yours in freedom,
        Federal Bureau of Investigation

    • Governments are often incompetent, yet they are quite capable of "conspiracy crap". See COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org] and ECHELON [wikipedia.org] for example. The fact that conspiracy crap sounds like conspiracy crap, counts in their favour.
    • Not true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by backslashdot (95548) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:42PM (#13695371)
      The Cambodians had an evil machine run by groups of people that killed millions. So did Stalin, In the last 100 years think of all the evil that "groups" of people have carried out.

      Governments dont have to be efficient, in fact the incompetence is what is scary. Innocent people will get screwed and the guilty will go free. The commies failed because even though they killed a lot of people, it was not necessarily the people they wanted to get. That's what the lack of oversight brings. The reason oversight is frowned upon is so that mistakes can be covered up.

      If you are innocent, beware of inefficient groups of people.

      Sadly there are those who dont care if there are innocent people getting screwed, as long as it's not them and they feel safe.

      It's cheaper to "sacrifice" some innocents than to find out if their punishment is deserved.

      Why do you think people support the idea of not finding out whether a non citizen is guilty before locking them up for life in Gitmo?

      I'm keeping my tinfoil hat on. Tight.
      • Re:Not true (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Xyrus (755017) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @12:01AM (#13696444) Journal
        "The commies failed because even though they killed a lot of people, it was not necessarily the people they wanted to get."

        Ugh! For cryin' out loud, how do comments like this get modded insightful?

        They weren't "commies". Communism had little to do with their government, let alone killing millions of people.

        Communism is what could be considered the utopia government. Everyone works together and contributes to the whole, and everyone gets an equal and fair share.

        But as has been shown in the past, the shiny happy cumbaya governments always fail or turn into something ugly due to the faults in human nature. People get greedy, and things fall apart from there.

        All the "communist" regimes I know of (I could be missing some) are more authoratarian or fascist in nature. They claim to be communist but they aren't.

        ~X~
        • The problem with communism is that Marx, by condoning (or even promoting?) violence as a valid means of achieving communism, put a substantial flaw in the "design"/implementation plans.

          That opened a much larger window for the evil and violent sociopaths to get to the top and start running the show.

          Otherwise, you might just have the run of the mill sociopaths, who would be like those parasites that don't inflict so much harm to their hosts. If you are fortunate some of those sociopaths might actually choose
    • That is just what they want you to think!
    • Now, if individuals are doing wiretaps... could be different

      Yeah, as long as it's the government itself, and not some human being listening in on you, there's no problem.
    • Now, if individuals are doing wiretaps... could be different

      There is no such thing as "they".

      Everything that is done in our names through government is done by individuals who sometimes act in concert but always act alone. Individuals act and pursue their own values sometimes righteous, sometimes not. Referring to a "government" as doing anything is always just a generalized abstraction for the individuals who are bestowed with power and responsibilities.

      Individuals are vindictive, self absorbed, self rig
    • Well, I KNOW that you're a awfully naive. There's a reason why Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies are on many school curricula. Did you skip that month? Or is that coming next term? Please - spare us what YOU KNOW and let the adults discuss this.
    • the only real thing scary about it was the shortage of harddrives that it promised to create storing all those email messages

      If this is true, then there could be one silver lining to all the spam out there...
  • by marsperson (909862) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:21PM (#13695066)


    For all those times they "accidentally intercept" 1-900 sex lines...

    "We had reason to believe Ossama Bin Ladin calls this number frequently."
  • "Yes sir, the month-long wiretap on the 1-900 chatline was definitely an accident. It won't happen again. Really."

    -Stephen
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:33PM (#13695113)
    In other news:
    Police sometimes arrest the wrong people who haven't committed any crime.
    Juries someimte convict the wrong person.
    The FBI isn't perfect.

    This is not exactly earth-shattering news here, unless you believe the government is some evil,perfect conspiracy out to get you. There's very little news value in this story.

    Scuttlemonkey, why'd you have to make that dig about saying oops makes it ok? Nobody would say that, so why'd you have to flamebait like a troll? The editors just get worse and worse.
    • Police sometimes arrest the wrong people who haven't committed any crime. Juries someimte convict the wrong person. The FBI isn't perfect.

      No! Next you'll be telling me that moderators sometimes label "informative" posts "insightful"

    • Police sometimes arrest the wrong people who haven't committed any crime.

      Yes, but they need either a warrant or a very good reason such as witnessing you committing the crime, finding you covered in blood near a murder scene, etc.. That's the way it used to be with wiretaps. Thanks to the inappropriately named patriot act, they can do it to anyone at any time, without notification.
      • And the point of notifying someone that you're tapping their lines would be?
        • Just acknowledging the mistake. The people who were (mistakenly) wiretapped suffered harm in that they had their privacy violated.

          You can argue about the nature of the harm (in the privacy violation) if you want, but it's still there.

          The other important aspect may be that if wiretappers know that they (or someone) has to acknowledge the mistake to the persons involved, they're likely to be more careful in getting it right. Conversely, if they know that any mistakes they make will automatically be covere

    • I think you missed the main point: "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."
    • "The FBI isn't perfect."

      So can we have some laws which don't assume that the FBI is perfect?
  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:36PM (#13695127)

    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.

    Why should they tell people their phones were tapped and conversations recorded? I'd bet that the people involved would get vocal about wiretaps.

    use of warrants issued by a court that operates in secret under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

    They use secret courts so they aren't accountable to the people who pay their salary, the taxpayers.

    Falcon
    • Quite right, they shouldn't. If they accidentally overheard my conversation without intending to, they need not tell me so as long as they destroy the data. Why? Beacuse I was not harmed in any way and I do not need to know that FBI is performing wiretaps somewhere in my area. Maybe they meant to wiretap my neighbor (and they have the warrants and believe he is, say, a serial killer), but telling me about their accidental wiretapping would make me tell my neighbor about this, just as something interesting t
      • Quite right, they shouldn't. If they accidentally overheard my conversation without intending to, they need not tell me so as long as they destroy the data. Why? Beacuse I was not harmed in any way and I do not need to know that FBI is performing wiretaps somewhere in my area. Maybe they meant to wiretap my neighbor (and they have the warrants and believe he is, say, a serial killer), but telling me about their accidental wiretapping would make me tell my neighbor about this, just as something interesting t

  • ... you mean they might have heard my conversations about whether or not cowboy neal wears a cowboy hat! Because I'm always telling everyone I know he does, but I dont' want the government knowing that!
  • Not just the FBI (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is slightly more serious I think... at least from the "Slashdot" perspective:

    cough cough [gwu.edu]
  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit@ y a hoo.com> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:58PM (#13695196)
    I get the impression that the FBI looks at everyone as a criminal waiting to happen. They probably keep all the intercepts on file, just like they want to do with records of legal firearm purchases, DNA samples from acquitted persons, and the like.
  • The slashdot view (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @06:59PM (#13695200)
    Do you report yourself when you run a red light ?
    When you make a mistake on your taxes in your favor ?
    When the cable company is accidentally giving you free porn ?

    What would be the actual upshot of the FBI reporting these errors ? We'd have another source of employment for lawyers and another way to waste limited law enforcement resources.

    The pursuit of criminal and or investigations is both a legitimate and neccesesary function of the government. The prople that complain most about the government doing its job are the same people that get the most upset when something untoward occurs.
    • by corsec67 (627446) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:41PM (#13695369) Homepage Journal
      The people enforcing the laws NEED to be held to a higher standard, because they have more power than a common citizen.

      With power comes responsibility. If the FBI could get away with wiretapping the wrong person, how long before they wiretap anyone?

      The question shouldn't be why not allow the police to do something, but should they be allowed to do something with the approiate oversight?

      Just because I don't have anything to hide doesn't mean I shouldn't hide my life, using encryption and such.
      • The people enforcing the laws NEED to be held to a higher standard, because they have more power than a common citizen.

        Hence the concept of "high crimes". However it too often appears that such people are held to lower standards than members of the public, especially when it comes to breaking the law.

    • There's something called the U.S. Constitution (and the accompanying Bill of Rights), and there's something called Due Process. When you combine these you get a certain set of restrictions that detail what the government can and cannot do in order to enforce the law. Amendment IV of the Constitution is very clear about unreasonable search and seizure - the entire premize is founded on the idea that you're *suspected* of *having committed* a crime (thereby giving law enforcement the right to search), whereas
    • another way to waste limited law enforcement resources.

      Every one of these "errors" could have equalled a real terrorist getting away with murder. That's the real waste of law enforcement resources here.

      Without accountability there is no reason to improve other than an inner desire to be better, and if the FBI had that, we wouldn't have various stories of agents abusing wiretap resources for insider trading purposes, and they might have taken the extra 15 seconds to confirm the phone number in each of these
  • How can they just say "sorry, it was a mistake" over and over again. This is the government and they shouldn't be making such careless mistakes repeatedly.. Whether it's wiretaps or something else.
  • by craXORjack (726120) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:03PM (#13695225)
    Agent Johnson: Honey, I'm home! By the way, I'm supposed to tell you that your phone was accidently tapped during one of our terrorism investigations. It's all taken care of now though. There is absolutely no trace of your transcripts left. I took care of that myself so you don't worry about it. Oh, and that guy you were talking to about meeting at a hotel while I'm at work next Thursday... He won't be able to make it. He commited suicide.
  • ...wire taps you!
  • Backlog (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Radicode (898701) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:34PM (#13695340)
    What scares me most are the 38,514 hours of audio backlog to be translated. That's over 4 years worth of audio! "Hey boss! I've got some intel about a bombing in a city... but it already happened 2 years ago..."

    Radicode
    • What scares me most are the 38,514 hours of audio backlog to be translated. That's over 4 years worth of audio! "Hey boss! I've got some intel about a bombing in a city... but it already happened 2 years ago..."

      Erm, that's 4 years divided by the number of microphones that they have recording stuff. So, it may only be a week old, there's just lots of bandwidth.

      It would take 4 years to listen to it all if you only had one person listening to it. How many people do you suppose they have on staff?
    • What scares me most are the 38,514 hours of audio backlog to be translated. That's over 4 years worth of audio! "Hey boss! I've got some intel about a bombing in a city... but it already happened 2 years ago..."

      For all we know that could be a week's worth. We don't know how much they record each day or how many people they have listening to it.

  • One day... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jon Abbott (723) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @07:35PM (#13695346) Homepage
    One day I was talking to a good friend of mine... Mid-sentence we both heard a "beeeeep" sound (probably 800-1000 Hz). After a few seconds of silence from both of us, I asked, "Was that you?" My friend replied "Nooooo..... Was that you?" To which I replied "Noooo..." So we both hung up and called each other again. No beep after that. To this day we joke about it, but we still wonder if we said something that caught "their" attention.
    • by eyal (774028) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @08:12PM (#13695493)
      #88575 +(4830)- [X]

      <Stormrider> I should bomb something
      <Stormrider> ...and it's off the cuff remarks like that that are the reason I don't log chats
      <Stormrider> Just in case the FBI ever needs anything on me
      <Elzie_Ann> I'm sure they can just get it from someone who DOES log chats.
      *** FBI has joined #gamecubecafe
      <FBI> We saw it anyway.
      *** FBI has quit IRC (Quit: )
    • Right, cuz the FBI makes sure to beep everytime they tap a phone.

  • by cnerd2025 (903423) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @08:36PM (#13695596)
    I thought that these were rights that were protected by the Constitution in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Amendments of the US Constitution? One is supposed to be informed of his crime before investigation can begin. The Writ of Habeas Corpus also applies here; since a crime hasn't been committed, there is no way that they can just listen because someone might commit a crime. Someone might talk about committing murder and how they plan to do it, but no one has the right to listen in on the conversation because one of the parties might conspire to commit murder. The Constitution protects rights of "criminals" by saying that a) to run an investigation a crime must be committed (habeas corupus) b) the accused must be told what his or her crime is (5th amendment) c) the person must be informed by the government with a cause and substantiation for search and seizure (4th amendment) d) the person is free from penalty of self-incrimination (5th amendment) e) the person is entitled to trial by jury (7th amendment and article 3) f) the person is granted the right to a fair punishment that fits his or her crime (8th amendment) g) the person has a right to a trial that quickly follows his or her endictment for the crime, as well as reasonable bail (6th amendment). So, wiretapping and using it in court would violate ALL of these. Since there is no proof of a crime that has been committed, the rest of the claims that would even validate a wiretap are false. If people knew that their phones were being tapped, they would clearly invoke the fifth amendment. This is a clear violation of authority and needs to be stopped. I'm sure a good corporate interest group would actually agree with us on this one.
    • Hmmm...what was that? Something about the constitution? Wasn't that like a boat or something in the civil war?

      Most people in the US would rather wipe their ass with it than try to read and comprehend it.

      And then the people elect officials with the same view. Over the past few years "We The People..." have sat idly by as all those flag wavers in raped and pillaged the founding document of this country.

      We let them do it. We encouraged them to do it. And some seem so shocked when they hear about it.

      It's comedi
    • Ok, but if it's even vaguely interpretable as unconstitutional, a high-priced lawyer with a catchy jingle like, "if x don't ____it, you must aquit" will surely get the evidence thrown out of court. Of course the next question is,
      If the wiretap leads to other evidence, that probably wouldn't have been found without the knowledge gained from the tap, is the other evidence also tainted enough to get thrown out? What if it would've been found out, but now there's no way of knowing? The loophole might be that
    • Okay, I have a few minutes, so there are a few little things that need clearing:

      1) "Notification of crime before investigation" is not in the Constitution. You're thinking of notification of crime upon arrest.

      2) Somebody else posted about Habeas Corpus - not what you thought.

      3) "No one has a right to listen to the conversation" is nothing to do with anything. Any public conversation is free game, wiretaps, searches etc. are normally supposed to be the result of a warrant from a judge.

      4) You are not free fro

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