the only straightforward way to understand this is that the goverment wishes to maintain corporate cover for the sort of data mining and surveillance that is unacceptable to establish in public view.
Threat Level - Wired Blogs: "An FBI unit reportedly facing a criminal investigation for Patriot Act abuses is asking Congress for $5.3 million in 2008 to pay three telecoms to build data centers to store Americans' communication records for years in order to provide the FBI 'near real time' access to Americans' phone and internet records.
The FBI already pays three telecoms, including AT&T and Verizon, about $1.8 million a year to process written 'emergency' requests for telephone and internet records. It says the 2008 requested funding (.pdf) will get them more than that."
The Justice Department has long been pushing the nation's phone companies and internet providers to keep records about Americans' communications for longer periods of time. These contracts largely achieve the FBI's goals without having to persuading Congress or federal regulators to mandate data retention guidelines as Europe has. The new databases will store years of land line phone call, calling card, cell phone call and internet communication records.
The contracts were first revealed after the Justice Department's Inspector General put out a report in March showing that a key anti-terrorism office were getting phone records from telecoms with letters that included knowingly false statements.