Verizon Denies NSA Sought Call Data

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Verizon Communications Inc. denied Tuesday that it had received a request for customer phone records from the National Security Agency, and AT&T said it doesn't give consumer information without a court order, bringing into question key points of a USA Today story.

"Contrary to the media reports, Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did Verizon provide, customer phone records," the New York-based phone company said in an e-mailed statement.

A spokesman from AT&T said the company does not "allow wiretapping without a court order, nor has it otherwise given customer information to law enforcement authorities or government agencies without legal authorization."

The statements came a day after BellSouth Corp. also said it had not provided the agency any customer call data.

A story in USA Today last Thursday said Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth had complied with an NSA request for tens of millions of customer phone records after the 2001 terror attacks. The report sparked a national debate on federal surveillance tactics.

The newspaper story cited anonymous sources "with direct knowledge of the arrangement."

Read Verizon's Statement
Read BellSouth's statement
"Sources told us that BellSouth and Verizon records are included in the database," USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson said Tuesday.

"We're confident in our coverage of the phone database story," Anderson added, "but we won't summarily dismiss BellSouth's and Verizon's denials without taking a closer look."

The New York Times had earlier reported the existence of an NSA eavesdropping program on international calls without warrants. Any collection of domestic consumer records would suggest the NSA program was far larger than suspected, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart.

USA Today said in a follow-up story Tuesday that BellSouth did not challenge the initial report when given details about it before publication. But BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said he never agreed to the reporter's allegations when presented with them.

Verizon also said USA Today erred in not drawing a distinction between long-distance and local telephone calls.

"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," Verizon's statement said.

Verizon's statement Tuesday apparently did not apply to MCI, which Verizon acquired in January. In an earlier statement, Verizon said it is in the process of ensuring that its policies are put in place in the former MCI business.

MCI had a long-distance consumer business, but its main source of revenue was corporate clients.
  • Melissa McNamara

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