At a time when we’re entering a recession (it’s official says Goldman Sachs), and many Americans are having a hard time paying their bills, is it that surprising that the FBI is a deadbeat when it comes to paying its phone bills on time?

According to the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen, audit results released today found that "telephone companies have repeatedly cut off FBI wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because of failures to pay telecommunication bills, including one invoice for $66,000 at one unidentified field office….The report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Glenn Fine also identified one case in which an order obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was halted because of ‘untimely payment.’"

According to Fine, "late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence."

The IG’s report also detailed the FBI’s chronic failure to account for hundreds of guns and laptop computers–likely to have had sensitive intelligence or personal data.

This surreal story was brought to my attention Thursday afternoon, soon after it was posted on the Washington Post’s website, by a gleeful Carl Bernstein–a reporter who knows a little something about FBI wiretapping and incompetence in another Republican Administration.

It’s also a sign of how profit trumps all for these telecom companies–the same ones that the Bush Administration and too many Dems are too eager to give immunity to.

If there’s any justice, common sense or legal accountability left in our system, this revelation will halt any attempt to upend the 1978 foreign wiretap law that would grant telecom firms immunity from lawsuits for assisting the FBI and other government agencies conduct secret surveillance.

Instead, let’s demand that telecoms be sent a big citizen’s bill –with interest– so we can get some good money for real watchdog groups (in congress and outside) who will monitor the FBI and the companies to ensure they stop bilking citizens of real security and money!