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Verizon and BellSouth - facing consumer lawsuits seeking massive damages - have issued carefully worded denials of a report that they turned over millions of customers’ calling records to a the NSA.
On Tuesday, Verizon issued this statement.
“As the president has made clear, the NSA programme he acknowledged authorising against al-Qaeda is highly-classified. Verizon cannot and will not comment on the programme. Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it.
That said, media reports made claims about Verizon that are simply 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.
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. It 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.
Another error is the claim that data on local calls is being turned over to NSA and that simple “calls across town” are being “tracked.” 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. As stated above, Verizon’s wireless and wireline companies did not provide to NSA customer records or call data, local or otherwise.
Again, Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to the classified NSA programme. Verizon always stands ready, however, to help protect the country from terrorist attack. We owe this duty to our fellow citizens. We also have a duty, that we have always fulfilled, to protect the privacy of our customers. The two are not in conflict. When asked for help, we will always make sure that any assistance is authorized by law and that our customers’ privacy is safeguarded.”
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