Feeds

US gov claims it spent TOO MUCH on wiretaps – and blames SPRINT

Wireless carrier overbilled for snoop gear, lawsuit alleges

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The Barack Obama administration has filed a civil lawsuit against US wireless operator Sprint, alleging that the carrier intentionally overcharged law enforcement agencies for services related to American government wiretapping programs.

Under current US law, telecommunications carriers are required to assist law enforcement with legally authorized surveillance operations. But they can also ask the government to pick up their costs associated with those operations, so long as they follow billing rules set by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Obama administration's lawsuit [PDF] accuses Sprint of breaking those rules by charging law enforcement agencies for costs that were inflated by as much as 58 per cent.

Between January 1, 2007 and July 31, 2010, Sprint submitted invoices worth a total of $37.7m, divided between the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the US Marshals Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; and the Secret Service.

But according to the government's complaint, Sprint included in its calculations such items as the interest paid on loans it took out to buy surveillance-related equipment, costs related to stock offerings to fund the purchase of equipment, and associated taxes – all of which were prohibited under FCC rules.

As a result, the lawsuit says, law enforcement agencies were overcharged to the tune of $21m.

Furthermore, the government argues that by not disclosing the cost model used to calculate its invoices, Sprint was "knowingly" submitting false claims – meaning it either knew it was lying, or else it acted in either "deliberate ignorance" or "reckless disregard" of the facts.

That last part is the kicker. It means that the government can ask the court to award it treble damages, meaning the agencies involved could recover a total of $63m.

In addition, Sprint could be forced to pay punitive damages of between $5,500 and $11,000 for each time it is found to have billed improperly.

For its part, Sprint denies any wrongdoing. In an emailed statement, a company spokesman told Bloomberg that the invoices it has submitted to the government "fully comply with the law" and that the carrier has "fully cooperated with this investigation."

The Obama administration has asked the court for a jury trial in the case. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.