the company noted that the story said BellSouth is "working under contract with the NSA" to provide "phone call records of tens of millions of Americans" that have been incorporated into the database.A spokesman for the paper said the letter is being reviewed and will be responded to. Meanwhile, Drinkard notes that BellSouth was informed of the details of the story before publication:
"No such proof was offered by your newspaper because no such contracts exist," stated the letter, portions of which were read by spokesman Jeff Battcher. "You have offered no proof that BellSouth provided massive calling data to the NSA as part of a warrantless program because it simply did not happen."
USA TODAY first contacted BellSouth more than five weeks ago. On the night before the story was published, the newspaper described the story in detail to BellSouth, and the company did not challenge the newspaper's account. The company's official response at that time: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."All three companies have, to varying degrees, denied participation in the reported database collection but statements on all sides have been carefully broken down and examined. Some reports indicate that the calling data referred to in the USA Today report was focused on long-distance calls, not local calls. Whether that would constitute "tens of millions" or add up to "the largest database ever assembled in the world" – descriptions included in the original story – is unclear. What does appear more clear a week after the report appeared is that we have a lot more to learn before we know exactly what this story is all about.