Denies Providing Customer Records to NSA
By Dionne Searcey
The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Verizon Communications Inc. today denied a media report
that it was approached by the National Security Agency and
provided it with data from its customers' domestic calls.
A report in USA Today last week said the company, as well as
AT&T Corp. and
BellSouth Corp., had handed over to the NSA massive
amounts of domestic calling records. BellSouth has denied
involvement in the program. AT&T has not commented on its
In a statement, Verizon said it can neither confirm nor deny
whether it has a relationship with the NSA. The company
pointed out in the statement that until four months ago,
when it acquired MCI Inc., the company didn't have a large
"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," the statement said.
Verizon also dismissed the suggestion that local calls were
monitored, noting that in most cases it doesn't even make
records of such calls.
USA Today was not immediately reachable for comment.
Qwest Communications International Inc. earlier said it
refused to cooperate with the NSA after deciding that doing
so would violate privacy law.
President Bush insisted Tuesday that the U.S. doesn't listen
in on domestic telephone conversations among ordinary
Americans. But he sidestepped whether the NSA compiles phone
records on millions of people.
"We do not listen to domestic phone calls without court
approval," Mr. Bush said in an East Room news conference
with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. "What I've told
the American people is we'll protect them against an al
Qaeda attack. And we'll do that within the law," Mr. Bush
"This government will continue to guard the privacy of the
American people. But if al Qaeda is calling into the United
States, we want to know, and we want to know why," the
However, Mr. Bush did not respond directly when asked
whether it was a violation of privacy for the NSA to seek
phone records from telephone companies.
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the
telephone industry, should open an investigation into
whether the nation's phone companies broke the law by
turning over millions of calling records to the government,
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said.
"There is no doubt that protecting the security of the
American people is our government's No. 1 responsibility,"
Mr. Copps said in a statement. "But in a digital age where
collecting, distributing and manipulating consumers'
personal information is as easy as a click of a button, the
privacy of our citizens must still matter."
When the NSA developed the programs it was under the
direction of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, now Mr. Bush's
choice to succeed Porter Goss as head of the Central
Intelligence Agency. The eavesdropping program and the phone
call databank are likely to be the focus of questions
Thursday when the Senate Intelligence Committee begins
Hayden's confirmation hearings.
Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is
chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he
wants to gather testimony from phone company representatives
about how they work with the NSA.
An FCC investigation, if undertaken, would be the second
attempt this year by the government to explore an aspect of
an NSA program. The Justice Department sought to investigate
the role of its lawyers in the warrantless eavesdropping
program, but it ended the inquiry last week because its
lawyers were denied security clearances.
Meanwhile, Monday's lawsuit in Washington asks the court to
immediately bar the phone companies from turning over
records. The complaint also seeks a penalty of $1,000 for
each violation of federal privacy laws, an amount that could
reach billions of dollars for turning over tens of millions
of records. It mirrors a similar lawsuit filed last week in
--The Associated Press
contributed to this article
Write to Dionne Searcey at