- 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 9/11 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
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 ¬ñ 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 ¬ñ Brit.
HUME: All right, Carl. Thanks very much.
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