Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2001

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Investigators within the DEA, INS and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying through Comverse is considered career suicide.

http://www.foxnews.comCarl Cameron Investigates (Part 3 of 4)

Friday, December 14, 2001

 [previously: Part 1 | Part 2 | ... | Part 4 ]


This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, Dec. 13, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Last time we reported on an Israeli-based company called Amdocs Ltd. that generates the computerized records and billing data for nearly every phone call made in America. As Carl Cameron reported, U.S. investigators digging into the September 11 terrorist attacks fear that suspects may have been tipped off to what they were doing by information leaking out of Amdocs.

In tonight's report, we learn that the concern about phone security extends to another company, founded in Israel, that provides the technology that the U.S. government uses for electronic eavesdropping. Here is Carl Cameron's third report.

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The company is Comverse Infosys, a subsidiary of an Israeli-run private telecommunications firm, with offices throughout the U.S. It provides wiretapping equipment for law enforcement. Here's how wiretapping works in the U.S.
   Every time you make a call, it passes through the nation's elaborate network of switchers and routers run by the phone companies. Custom computers and software, made by companies like Comverse, are tied into that network to intercept, record and store the wiretapped calls, and at the same time transmit them to investigators.
   The manufacturers have continuing access to the computers so they can service them and keep them free of glitches. This process was authorized by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA. Senior government officials have now told Fox News that while CALEA made wiretapping easier, it has led to a system that is seriously vulnerable to compromise, and may have undermined the whole wiretapping system.
   Indeed, Fox News has learned that Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller were both warned Oct. 18 in a hand-delivered letter from 15 local, state and federal law enforcement officials, who complained that "law enforcement's current electronic surveillance capabilities are less effective today than they were at the time CALEA was enacted."
   Congress insists the equipment it installs is secure. But the complaint about this system is that the wiretap computer programs made by Comverse have, in effect, a back door through which wiretaps themselves can be intercepted by unauthorized parties.
   Adding to the suspicions is the fact that in Israel, Comverse works closely with the Israeli government, and under special programs, gets reimbursed for up to 50 percent of its research and development costs by the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. But investigators within the DEA, INS and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying through Comverse is considered career suicide.
   And sources say that while various F.B.I. inquiries into Comverse have been conducted over the years, they've been halted before the actual equipment has ever been thoroughly tested for leaks. A 1999 F.C.C. document indicates several government agencies expressed deep concerns that too many unauthorized non-law enforcement personnel can access the wiretap system.    And the FBI's own nondescript office in Chantilly, Virginia that actually oversees the CALEA wiretapping program, is among the most agitated about the threat.
   But there is a bitter turf war internally at F.B.I. It is the FBI's office in Quantico, Virginia, that has jurisdiction over awarding contracts and buying intercept equipment. And for years, they've thrown much of the business to Comverse. A handful of former U.S. law enforcement officials involved in awarding Comverse government contracts over the years now work for the company.
   Numerous sources say some of those individuals were asked to leave government service under what knowledgeable sources call "troublesome circumstances" that remain under administrative review within the Justice Department.

And what troubles investigators most, particularly in New York, in the counter terrorism investigation of the World Trade Center attack, is that on a number of cases, suspects that they had sought to wiretap and survey immediately changed their telecommunications processes. They started acting much differently as soon as those supposedly secret wiretaps went into place. -- Brit.

HUME: Carl, is there any reason to suspect in this instance that the Israeli government is involved?

CAMERON: No, there's not. But there are growing instincts in an awful lot of law enforcement officials in a variety of agencies who suspect that it had begun compiling evidence, and a highly classified investigation into that possibility Brit.

HUME: All right, Carl. Thanks very much.

Carl Cameron Investigates Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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