BellSouth, the US telecommunications group, is demanding that USA Today retract a story which claimed the Atlanta-based company was one of three big US telecommunications carriers providing domestic customer call records to the National Security Agency after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“We are insisting the newspaper retract the false and unsubstantiated statements that they have been made regarding BellSouth,” the company said on Thursday.

BellSouth’s demand follow the claims that AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon Communications had turned over tens of millions of consumers? telephone records to the NSA in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks so the super secret security agency could analyse call patterns.

Similar allegations were made in a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based privacy protection pressure group, in January against AT&T. That lawsuit is largely based on the claims of a retired AT&T engineer.

Earlier this week BellSouth issued a carefully worded statement in which it said it had conducted an internal review which had confirmed that, “we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA.”

Verizon, the second largest US telecommunications group, has also denied that it had handed over customer records to the NSA as part of the alleged government-authorised anti-terrorist programme.

USA Today, has however said it stands by the story which has spurred calls in Congress and elsewhere for a full investigation.

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