BellSouth Denies Giving NSA Data
Firm Conducts Review, Says No Contact Was Made
The Wall Street Journal
By Dionne Searcey and Shawn Young
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
BellSouth Corp. yesterday denied turning over bulk
calling records to the National Security Agency, amid uproar
over the alleged role of phone companies in U.S.
The Atlanta-based company also said the agency had never
contacted it to provide massive amounts of information about
domestic calls. A report in USA Today last week said the
company, along with
Verizon Communications Inc. as well as
AT&T Inc. helped the government collect billions of
Company spokesman Jeff Battcher said BellSouth waited until
now to make a statement so it could conduct a thorough
review of all facets of its business, from its long-distance
operation to its accounting department and beyond. The
company found no evidence that it had contracts with the NSA
or had been subpoenaed by the agency, he said.
"Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such
contract exists, and we have not provided bulk customer
calling records to the NSA," the BellSouth statement said.
"BellSouth has built a successful business because of the
trust that our customers have placed with us. We will
continue to take our obligations to our customers
Both Verizon and AT&T, which has agreed to acquire BellSouth
in a deal that could be complete by the end of the year,
declined to comment. Verizon issued a statement last week
pointing to "factual errors" in media accounts of its
handling of customer data and said the company "does not,
and will not, provide any government agency unfettered
access to our customer records or provide information to the
government under circumstances that would allow a fishing
Joseph Nacchio, the former chief executive of
Qwest Communications International Inc. confirmed in a
statement last week that he had been approached by the NSA
regarding the program in 2001. Mr. Nacchio said he chose
not to cooperate.
Mr. Battcher said BellSouth's chief executive Duane Ackerman
had never been contacted by the NSA in relation to providing
customer records. Mr. Ackerman is chairman of the National
Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, which is
made up of communications executives and advises President
Bush on matters of national security and emergency
Reports of the domestic calling record database caused a
public uproar with the companies' customers and civil
libertarian groups raising charges of privacy invasion.
Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill demanded
information from the companies. And at least two
potentially multibillion dollar lawsuits were filed based on
similar charges, the most recent one yesterday.
Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T Inc. seem poised to draw a
distinction between the role of their local-phone operations
and that of the long-distance businesses that they acquired
in recent years, well after the NSA allegedly approached the
long-distance companies, people familiar with the situation
The White House declined to comment. President Bush said
last week that the government doesn't listen to domestic
phone calls without court approval.
---- John McKinnon
contributed to this article.
Write to Dionne Searcey at
email@example.com and Shawn Young at