- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hackers being hunted by police worldwide eavesdropped on FBI and Scotland Yard officers investigating them.

The Internet outlaws, part of a loose coalition called Anonymous, got access to a telephone conference call between U.S. and British investigators and then posted a recording of their conversation on Friday.

“The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comm[unication]s for some time now,” boasted Anonymous in a tweet last week.

In the 16-minute conference call, FBI agents, including one from the Los Angeles field office, and officers from Scotland Yard’s Internet crimes unit discuss confidential and sensitive details of their ongoing investigation into Anonymous.

On the Jan. 17 call, investigators briefly refer to their work developing a possible informant in the ranks of Anonymous, the loose international coalition of pranksters, anarchists and free-floating radicals that repeatedly have embarrassed American law enforcement agencies.

The Scotland Yard officers say on the call that British prosecutors have made a secret application to a judge to delay a new round of charges and arrests against members of Anonymous. The delay is designed to give the FBI more time to wrap up the investigation on its side of the Atlantic.

A British police officer also noted that a team from the U.S. Air Force had been lending forensic support to both British and U.S. investigators.

A statement from Scotland Yard said the FBI is investigating and that “no operational risks [to British police] have been identified.”

The FBI said the information from the conference call “was intended for law enforcement officers only and was illegally obtained.”

“A criminal investigation is underway to identify and hold accountable those responsible,” the FBI added.

The incident is “an embarrassment” to the FBI, according to Robert Liscouski, a former FBI and Department of Homeland Security official.

Breaches such as the intercepted conference all “are sometimes a cost of information sharing,” he added

“You have to share information [in an international investigation like this one], and sometimes it gets disclosed,” he said.