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The F.B.I.Listening Service

To the Editors:

Enclosed you find a photocopy of a page from The Telephone Secretary, June 10, 1970, which is the “Official Bulletin of the Associated Telephone Answering Exchanges, Inc.” The issue is marked “CONFIDENTIAL: ATAE MEMBERS ONLY.” I thought it might be of interest to your readers.

Lawrence Budner

Sayville, New York

THE FBI HAS ASKED ATAE TO SEEK the cooperation of its members in locating fugitives wanted in connection with arson, dynamiting, and other riotous activities. A conversation with an FBI agent this week centered around the use such people may make of telephone answering services. The sort of people for whom the FBI are looking are members of groups who have gone completely underground and who, in their moving around to avoid the police and the FBI, have difficulty staying in touch with each other. These engaging types manufacture dynamite, engage in plots to blow up buildings, start fires and other such pursuits.

In seeking the service of a bureau, they will not, naturally, announce the nature of their business nor will the messages be such that a telephone secretary will be able to readily determine that she does indeed have a revolutionary on her board. However, we feel that a client with an unusual number of “locating” messages might be worthy of surveillance. If the client continually leaves, “If John Jones calls, he can reach me at…” type of messages or if he receives messages from his callers such as “When Joe Client calls in for his messages, tell him John Jones is in town and can be reached at…,” you might consider that he warrants your suspicions and closer scrutiny.

There are, of course, legitimate locating services in some cities but as far as is known, these legitimate services for run-away kids usually do not use an answering service because they don’t have the money. Incidentally, the types we are talking about are poor pay too!

One bureau which has already been approached says that the caller purported to represent an unknown publication, would not or could not give a residence address or phone number, and wanted trunk line service. If you are approached for such service, and do wish to be helpful to the FBI, collect your money in advance, watch the messages you receive, and if your suspicions are aroused, the FBI requests you to call their local office. If this is not possible, call ATAE in Washington with the information and we will contact the agent here.”

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