US operator Verizon Communications has responded to press articles suggesting that Verizon, together with AT& T and BellSouth, provided the US National Security Agency with customer phone records in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks.
"President Bush has referred to an NSA programme, which he authorised, directed against al-Qaeda. Because that programme is highly classified, Verizon cannot comment on that programme, nor can we confirm or deny whether we have had any relationship to it," the company said.
However, Verizon went on to say that there had been factual errors in press coverage about the way Verizon handles customer information in general.
"Verizon puts the interests of our customers first and has a longstanding commitment to vigorously safeguard our customers' privacy," it stated.
Verizon added that it will provide customer information to a government agency only when authorised by law for appropriately-defined and focused purposes.
"When information is provided, Verizon seeks to ensure that it is properly used for that purpose and is subject to appropriate safeguards against improper use," the firm said.
"Verizon does not, and will not, provide any government agency with unfettered access to our customer records, nor provide information to the government under circumstances that would allow a fishing expedition."
Qwest Communications was also named as one of the targets for the eavesdropping project, but is understood to have been the only one to reject the NSA's request.
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