By WALTER PUTNAM, Associated Press Writer
BellSouth Corp. said Monday its "thorough review" found no indication
it gave telephone records to the National Security Agency as part of a
federal anti-terrorism surveillance program.
A report last week by USA Today identified BellSouth, along with AT&T
Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., as companies that had complied
with an NSA request to turn over millions of customer phone records
after the 2001 terror attacks.
"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 Atlanta-based regional Bell said in a statement.
BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said the company's investigation
found "no contract with the NSA and we are confident that we have
turned over no phone records."
Last week, Battcher said the company had "not provided any information
we would need a subpoena for, and they were evasive about obtaining a
subpoena. We were not happy with their answers at all, and felt
for sure this would get _our company_ in a lot of trouble. They asked
us, just as they asked Qwest; we told them go away and do not bother
us without a warrant."
The USA Today report followed earlier revelations of wiretapping on
overseas calls without a court order and sparked a renewed national
debate over government intrusion into Americans' civil liberties in
the fight against terrorism.
Critics denounced the phone companies for complying with the NSA
surveillance request, while others approved of compromising privacy for
Another of the regional Bells, Denver-based Qwest Communications
International Inc., did not comply with the federal request for call
logs. "The whole thing stunk badly, in our estimation," said one
An AT&T spokesman said the company had no comment on BellSouth's
statement. A Verizon representative did not immediately return a call
Last week, Verizon said it had complied with relevant laws and was
"committed" to customer privacy. San Antonio-based AT&T said it
respects customers' privacy but has "an obligation to assist law
enforcement and other government agencies responsible for protecting
the public welfare."
Battcher said BellSouth's customer service department had received
little more than two dozen complaints about reports that private phone
records may have been relayed to the government.
"We have 20 million land line customers, so 26 complaints is not a
lot," Battcher said.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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