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Friday, May 17, 2013

Verizon secretly handed over phone records of AP reporters to the federal government

image: herzobgr/Flickr
Madison Ruppert

As the Obama administration is hit by scandal after scandal, it was revealed that Verizon wireless handed over private data belonging to journalists with the Associated Press last year without any hesitation or questions asked.

Interestingly, the Associated Press said the decision to publish the article that reportedly sparked the investigation was only made after consulting the White House and the CIA.

This latest news came as congressional critics said the investigation damaged press freedom and the White House claimed they were ignorant of the investigation. The Justice Department acknowledged the surveillance of AP journalists earlier this week.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that at least two AP reporters’ personal cellphone records “were provided to the government by Verizon Wireless without any attempt to obtain permission to tell them so the reporters could ask a court to quash the subpoena,” citing an AP employee.

This was no small probe. Indeed, it involved the seizure of over 20 separate phone lines assigned to AP staff in April and May of last year, according to the AP.

Ryan Gallagher of Future Tense points out that one of the most controversial aspects of this situation is that “the AP was not given advance notice of the seizure, which is considered the usual protocol when the government is seeking to obtain journalists’ records.”

While some companies like Dropbox and Twitter tell their users whenever possible that the government seeks access to their data.

Twitter even challenged a court order last year that required them to hand over data on one of their users.

“But Verizon—like AT&T, Facebook, and Comcast—has been criticized in the past for its lack of willingness to stand up for users’ privacy rights, which suggests its decision to hand over AP reporters’ records is true to form,” Gallagher writes.

In 2013, Verizon continued to get a horrible rating from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), receiving zero stars for helping protect user data from the government. Verizon also got zero stars in 2011 and 2012.
Unsurprisingly, Verizon Wireless would not comment on specific cases, including this one.

Spokesman Debra Lewis said she was “not going to speculate on what may or may not happen in the future,” speaking of a possible change to the company’s policy on responding to government requests.

It is interesting to see how radically different the AP sees this probe compared to the White House and the Justice Department.

While the AP maintains that they only published the story after the government assured them that “The national security concerns had passed,” Eric Holder claimed, “It put the American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole.”

“And trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action,” Holder said, apparently in reference to a May 7, 2012 article that claimed the CIA thwarted a bomb plot organized by a group related to al Qaeda in Yemen.

Of course, one of the most interesting aspects of that original story – one which is often left out when it is referred to now – is that the individual chosen by the terrorist group to carry out the bombing was actually an asset of the CIA and Saudi intelligence the entire time.

How the story actually put anyone in danger, even if the AP is lying about getting the story cleared by the government, is unclear.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM - 9 PM PT/10 PM - 12 AM ET. Show page link here:http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at
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