TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Questions Raised for Phone Giants in Spy Data Furor

Questions Raised for Phone Giants in Spy Data Furor

Monty Solomon (
Sat, 13 May 2006 23:41:10 -0400

The New York Times
May 13, 2006

The former chief executive of Qwest, the nation's fourth-largest phone
company, rebuffed government requests for the company's calling
records after 9/11 because of "a disinclination on the part of the
authorities to use any legal process," his lawyer said yesterday.

The statement on behalf of the former Qwest executive, Joseph P.
Nacchio, followed a report that the other big phone companies -- AT&T,
BellSouth and Verizon -- had complied with an effort by the National
Security Agency to build a vast database of calling records, without
warrants, to increase its surveillance capabilities after the Sept.
11 attacks.

Those companies insisted yesterday that they were vigilant about their
customers' privacy, but did not directly address their cooperation
with the government effort, which was reported on Thursday by USA
Today. Verizon said that it provided customer information to a
government agency "only where authorized by law for appropriately
defined and focused purposes," but that it could not comment on any
relationship with a national security program that was "highly

Legal experts said the companies faced the prospect of lawsuits
seeking billions of dollars in damages over cooperation in the
program, citing communications privacy legislation stretching back to
the 1930's. A federal lawsuit was filed in Manhattan yesterday seeking
as much as $50 billion in civil damages against Verizon on behalf of
its subscribers.

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