Government Accuses Sprint of Overcharging for Court-Ordered Wiretaps

The Department of Justice is suing the carrier for $63 million.

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As we all now know so well, the government loves to know what's going on with our phone calls. To make sure it can tap any phone at any time, it requires phone companies to keep lines at the ready. This all costs money. Some of those expenses can be reimbursed from the government, though others are the legally required cost of doing business in this country, thanks to 1994's Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

It seems that Sprint and the Department of Justice don't agree on which expenses can be reimbursed and which cannot. In a lawsuit filed today, the government is accusing Sprint of overcharging for the wiretaps and pen registers the company is required to provide.

According to the suit, Sprint knowingly overcharged the government by $21 million between January 1, 2007 and July 31, 2010. The DOJ didn't realize there was a 58 percent, the suit says, because the receipts Sprint submitted weren't itemized, so the government didn't know what it was paying for.

Sprint denies this, saying all expenses were fully compliant with the law.

We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously," Sprint spokesman John Taylor told Reuters.

As Wired points out, the number of wiretaps (that we know about ... ) increased dramatically in 2012, up 24 percent. Most of those were from federal agencies, which ordered 71 percent more taps than in 2011.

The Department of Justice is asking for $63 million.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.