Washington was buzzing on Thursday after a story in The Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency was collecting millions of phone records from Verizon customers under a secret court order obtained by the FBI, which the newspaper published on its website.
That came as privacy advocates, journalists and others were already complaining about Justice's collection of AP phone records in a leak investigation.
One progressive group characterized the Verizon record collection, which included all domestic and international calls and local calls on a daily basis for the duration of the order (April 25-July 19), as an example of "the executive branch conspir[ing] with big corporations to violate the privacy of Americans."
The telco had no comment on the story or the allegation of conspiracy, but Verizon general counsel Randy Milch tried to put such speculation to rest in an email to employees Thursday, according to a copy obtained by Multichannel News. But even in that he did not acknowledge the accuracy of the Guardian story, though he came close by pointing out that the order on the Guardian website "compels Verizon to respond; forbids Verizon from revealing the order's existence; and excludes from production the 'content of any communication...or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer."
"Verizon continually takes steps to safeguard its customers' privacy," Milch said in the email. "Nevertheless, the law authorizes the federal courts to order a company to provide information in certain circumstances, and if Verizon were to receive such an order, we would be required to comply."