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.
This is false….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.
A spokesman followed this up with a flat statement: “We have provided no customer information whatsoever to the NSA.”
BellSouth said the same thing yesterday, with their spokesman telling USA Today, “We are not providing any information to the NSA, period.” He followed up today by confirming that BellSouth had not provided bulk calling data to “any governmental agency.”
This is fascinating, isn’t it? Seems like USA Today’s sources have some explaining to do. I wonder what’s really going on here?
UPDATE: In comments, Jeremy points out that we know (or think we know) that Qwest turned down the NSA’s request. But that means the NSA did request customer call data from them. Since it’s unlikely that the NSA approached only Qwest, this means that the other companies must be lying or spinning in some way.
One possibility: they allowed the NSA access to their trunk lines (as described here) and the NSA collected the data themselves. This would allow the telcos to say that they hadn’t “provided” any “customer records” to the NSA, which would be technically true.
Still, it’s very odd. The telco denials are pretty flat, and if they’re lying they’re doing it clumsily. Why not just stick with “no comment on national security matters” if the reports are true?