Israel Is Spying In And On The U.S.?
Comverse, CALEA, Israel and
the terror investigation
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.
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Carl Cameron Investigates Part
3 : Comverse, CALEA, Israel and the terror investigation
HUME: 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 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
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
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
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.
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