USA Today backs away

The paper says it can't confirm that BellSouth and Verizon contracted to provide records to NSA database.

Published June 30, 2006 4:56PM (EDT)

A month and a half after reporting that the National Security Agency has compiled a database of Americans' telephone records, USA Today is backing away from its claim that BellSouth and Verizon contracted to provide customers' records for it.

In an editor's note, the newspaper stands by its report that the NSA has "built a massive domestic calls record database involving the domestic call records of telecommunications companies." But it now says that it "cannot confirm" that BellSouth and Verizon contributed records to the database.

Shortly after USA Today's report on the database appeared in May, the two companies denied that they had contracted to provide calling data to the NSA. The denials were "unexpected," the paper says, because USA Today had spoken to the companies repeatedly about its report before it was published, and neither denied its participation at the time. Even after the report appeared, BellSouth initially said it could not categorically deny participation until it conducted an internal review.

In a separate story, USA Today says that five members of Congress briefed on the database program say that AT&T has contributed records to it. AT&T says the Justice Department has told it not to comment one way or the other. Four lawmakers tell USA Today that MCI, the long-distance company recently acquired by Verizon, also contributed records to the database, while Qwest apparently refused.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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