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BellSouth seeks retraction on phone story
Telecom firm calls USA Today report that it cooperated with National Security Agency 'false and unsubstantiated'.
By Jennifer Westhoven, CNN correspondent

ATLANTA (CNN) - Telecommunications giant BellSouth has sent a letter to USA Today asking for a retraction of a story the paper ran last week alleging the company and two others were cooperating with a National Security Agency program to compile a massive database of domestic phone calls.

Company spokesman Jeff Battcher said Thursday that BellSouth (Research) faxed the letter to the attention of the publisher and president of USA Today and the paper's general counsel. It calls for it to retract the "false and unsubstantiated statements the paper made regarding Bell South" in its NSA phone records story.

USA Today has not yet responded to the letter. It said earlier this week it stands by its story but would review denials by BellSouth and Verizon (Research).

The newspaper reported NSA doesn't record or listen to conversations. Instead, it said, the agency uses the data, which includes numbers, times and locations, to look for patterns that might suggest terrorist activity.

BellSouth and Verizon, two of the three firms mentioned in the article, denied providing such information to the NSA while the third, AT&T, said it would not provide such information without legal authorization.

The Bush administration has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a program.


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