Verizon Denies Handing Records to NSA5/16/2006 11:09 AM Eastern
Verizon Communications Inc. is denying that it gave millions of phone records to help the National Security Agency conduct a secret electronic hunt for terrorists through analysis of calling patterns.
“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. This is false,” Verizon said in a statement.
Verizon’s statement was attributable to the company as a whole, not to a particular company official.
USA Today reported May 11 that Verizon, AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. gave the NSA millions of calling records to allow the agency to amass a giant database that, following analysis, might yield patterns traceable to terrorists and their sympathizers operating in the United States and abroad.
Verizon’s announcement came one day after BellSouth stated that after an internal probe, it concluded that it did not have an NSA contract and “we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA.”
Verizon’s carefully worded statement disavowed that any company unit -- local and long-distance phone, wireless and Internet access -- handed over data or records to the NSA.
“None of these companies -- wireless or wireline -- provided customer records or call data,” Verizon said.
Verizon insisted that because the NSA’s search for al Qaeda operatives is highly classified, it “will not confirm or deny whether is has any relationship to [the NSA program]."
The regional Bell operating company also noted that it was implausible to believe that it could have surrendered local calling records.
“In fact, phone companies do not even make records of local calls in most cases because the vast majority of customers are not billed per call for local calls. In any event, the claim is just wrong,” Verizon said.
If there is an ambiguity in Verizon’s statement, it would involve the actions of MCI Inc., a long-distance provider with which Verizon merged in January. Verizon did not issue a denial regarding whether MCI participated in the NSA program prior to the merger. The USA Today story did not refer to MCI.
Qwest Communications International Inc, a 14-state RBOC based in Denver, did not get involved with NSA, fearing that handing over records would have violated the law, USA Today reported. A former Qwest executive later confirmed that angle of the story.