Verizon denies giving out phone info
Telecom firm rebuts newspaper report that it gave out phone records or call information to National Security Agency.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Verizon Communications Inc. denied earlier media reports that it entered into a contract with the National Security Agency, providing the government office with info about its customer phone calls.
"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," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Last week USA Today reported that the National Security Agency was secretly collecting phone records from the country's three biggest phone companies -- Verizon, BellSouth (Research) and AT&T (Research) -- in an effort to detect terrorist plots.
Verizon neither confirmed nor denied whether it has any relationship to the classified NSA program.
(Read the Verizon statement here)
A Verizon spokesman told CNN the company decided to issue Tuesday's statement since certain media reports alleged they had been asked by the NSA to provide phone records.
Verizon issued a similar statement Friday, saying it would provide customer info to a government agency "only where authorized by law for appropriately-defined and focused purposes."
The company said that it would not provide any government agency "unfettered access" to customer records.
President Bush reiterated earlier Tuesday that the government does not listen to the phone calls of ordinary Americans without a court order.
"I've also been clear about the fact that we do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval and this government will continue to guard the privacy of the American people," he said. "But if al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know, and we want to know why."
Under federal law, the government is required to obtain a court order to tap the phones of American citizens inside the country.
Following Bush's comments, White House spokesman Tony Snow would neither confirm nor deny the USA Today story.
BellSouth Corp., the No. 3 U.S. local telephone carrier, spoke out against the USA Today story on Monday, denying that it handed over customer phone records.
"We have provided no customer information whatsoever to the NSA," BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher told CNN.
A lawsuit that could turn into a $50 billion class action was filed against Verizon on Friday on behalf of all Verizon subscribers. The suit contends that collecting phone records violates the Constitutional right to privacy and federal law.
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