Washington was buzzing on Thursday after a story in The Guardian revealed that the National
Security Agency was collecting millions of phone records from Verizon customers
under a secret court order obtained by the FBI, which the
newspaper published on its website.
That came as privacy advocates, journalists and others were
already complaining about Justice's collection of AP phone records in a leak
One progressive group characterized the Verizon record
collection, which included all domestic and international calls and local calls
on a daily basis for the duration of the order (April 25-July 19), as an
example of "the executive branch conspir[ing] with big corporations to
violate the privacy of Americans."
Verizon had no comment on the story or the allegation of
conspiracy, but Verizon General Counsel Randy Milch tried to put such
speculation to rest in an email to Verizon employees Thursday, according to a
copy obtained by B&C. But even in
that he did not acknowledge the accuracy of the Guardian story, though he came close by pointing out that the order
on the Guardian website "compels
Verizon to respond; forbids Verizon from revealing the order's existence; and excludes
from production the 'content of any communication...or the name, address, or
financial information of a subscriber or customer."
"Verizon continually takes steps to safeguard its
customers' privacy," Milch said in the email. "Nevertheless, the law
authorizes the federal courts to order a company to provide information in
certain circumstances, and if Verizon were to receive such an order, we would
be required to comply."
Look for another government leak investigation
into this story, since according to one exec familiar with them such secret
orders are almost never leaked.