1/17/2006

This Just In...

FBI on NSA Data: 'Calls to Pizza Hut'
"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," says one ex-FBI official about some of the thousands of names, telephone numbers and addresses forwarded to the agency by the National Security Agency. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."

And FBI director Robert S. Mueller III was concerned enough about the legality of the eavesdropping program that he asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, an official said.

In FBI field offices, the NSA material was often considered unproductive, leading some agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut," said one official. (New York Times)

Who's Investigating the Missing Billions?
Very little has been done to get to the bottom of the scandal of overbilling by contractors in Iraq. It's been over a year and a half since the Constitutional Provisional Authority stopped running the country amid several audits that uncovered lax oversight of contractors and the disappearance of billions in funds. The Justince Department and a special inspector general haven't done a thing to recover the money "suspected of disappearing through fraud and price gouging in reconstruction."

The CPA which lasted from April 2003 to June 2004 was allocated more than $38 billion in U.S. and Iraqi funds and it spent $19.7 billion of U.N.-administered Iraqi oil money. (BTW, former head of CPA Paul Bremer is John Stewart's guest tonight on the Daily Show.)

The Defense Contract Audit Agency says that it has "performed 1,373 audits in support of Iraq reconstruction contracting activity." But those audits weren't aimed specifically at fraud, requiring auditors "to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the contractor submissions and supporting data are free of material misstatement."

Another option, which the government has not used, is to intervene in suits filed by individuals who know of misused money under the False Claims Act. The Justice Department declined to intervene in the one Iraq-related suit in which it announced a decision. That case was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA by a former employee of Custer Battles (awarded $38 million in contracts), who claims that the company overcharged the government for security services performed at Baghdad Airport. That case is still pending. (Wall Street Journal)

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