Verizon Denies Sending Records to NSA

 
 
By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-05-16
 
 
 
For the second time May 16, a major phone company named in a USA Today story about records being sent to the National Security Agency is denying that any such records were sent.

Earlier on May 16, BellSouth issued a very strong denial that the company was even contacted by the NSA, much less asked to provide records.

In a statement issued late May 16, Verizon said the company cannot confirm or deny any relationship it might have with the NSA.

However, the company did say that the USA Today report that it had agreed to provide details of all phone records to the NSA was false.

"One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers domestic calls," the companys statement says. "This is false."

"From the time of the 9/11 attacks until just four months ago, Verizon had three major businesses—its wireline phone business, its wireless company and its directory publishing business," the Verizon statement said.

Four months ago, Verizon acquired MCI. MCI was not mentioned by USA Today as having been a participant in providing call data to the NSA.

To read more about the NSAs collection of phone records, click here.

"[Verizon] also had its own Internet Service Provider and long-distance businesses. Contrary to the media reports, Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did Verizon provide, customer phone records from any of these businesses, or any call data from those records. None of these companies—wireless or wireline—provided customer records or call data."

The Verizon statement also said that assertions that even calls across town were being tracked was also false.

In fact, the statement said, such calls are not even tracked by the phone company itself, making it impossible to provide such billing records to the NSA.

"In any event, the claim is just wrong," the statement says. "As stated above, Verizons wireless and wireline companies did not provide to NSA customer records or call data, local or otherwise."

Verizon said that the company believes its duty to help protect against terrorist attacks is not in conflict with its duty to protect the privacy of its customers.

The statement said that such information would only be provided to the government only when it was properly authorized by law.

When contacted by eWEEK, Verizon Chief Communications Officer Peter Thonis, who issued the companys statement, declined to amplify the statement beyond what was already released.

When contacted earlier May 16, a spokesperson for AT&T, the other company mentioned in the USA Today report, refused to discuss the companys position beyond a brief comment issued May 12.

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