The White House has gotten its tab from Sprint for wiretapping expenses and is sending it back with a big old frowny face on it, saying the company is overcharging it by more than $21 million. And by “sending it back,” of course I mean it’s suing Sprint.
“As alleged, Sprint over billed law enforcement agencies for carrying out court-ordered intercepts, causing a significant loss to the government’s limited resources,” said San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
Under the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act of 1994, telecommunications company must provide the government with wiretapping services when ordered to do so. But those companies don’t have to comply out of pocket and can recoup “reasonable expenses” incurred while wiretapping.
Not included in those, the government claims, are any expenses carriers ring up to modify “equipment, facilities or services” while complying with the 1994 law, under guidelines issued by the Federal Communications Commission in 2006.
“Despite the FCC’s clear and unambiguous ruling, Sprint knowingly included in its intercept charges the costs of financing modifications to equipment, facilities, and services installed to comply with CALEA,” according to the suit. “Because Sprint’s invoices for intercept charges did not identify the particular expenses for which it sought reimbursement, federal law enforcement agencies were unable to detect that Sprint was requesting reimbursement of these unallowable costs.”
But Sprint claims it’s just exercising its right to get those “reasonable costs” taken care of.
“Under the law, the government is required to reimburse Sprint for its reasonable costs incurred when assisting law enforcement agencies with electronic surveillance,” a Sprint spokesman. “The invoices Sprint has submitted to the government fully comply with the law. We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously.”
Who knew the government’s complaints could be so similar to our very own consumer billing qualms?