Same Day It's Revealed Verizon Has Never Challenged NSA, It Mocks Internet Companies For Doing So

from the poor-timing dept

We mentioned in our post about the newly declassified FISC ruling, explaining the secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act that allows for bulk data collection of all phone records, that the FISC notes (in its own support) that telcos like Verizon and AT&T have chosen to never challenge the bulk collection orders:

To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.

This is hardly a surprise. We’d already pointed out that, while the internet companies had been very vocal about the NSA surveillance efforts, there had been a deafening silence from the likes of Verizon and AT&T. In fact, it later came out that the telcos actually volunteered to share this information, and when the tech companies reached out to get them to sign onto a letter asking the government to be more transparent, AT&T and Verizon refused to sign on.

Given all of this, it’s hard to imagine any worse timing than the very same day that the FISC ruling was unclassified for a Verizon exec to finally speak out on this. Specifically Verizon Enterprise Solutions president John Stratton decided to talk about this… by mocking Google, Yahoo and Microsoft for “grandstanding” on this issue, and to pretend that Verizon had to just shut up and hand over the records for the sake of national security.

“I appreciate that the consumer-centric IT firms that you referenced [Yahoo, Google, Microsoft] that it’s important to grandstand a bit, and waive their arms and protest loudly so as not to offend the sensibility of their customers,” Stratton said.

“This is a more important issue than that which is generated in a press release. This is a matter of national security.”

Stratton said the larger issue that failed to be addressed in the actions of the companies is of keeping security and liberty in balance.

“There is another question that needs to be kept in the balance, which is a question of civil liberty and the rights of the individual citizen in the context of that broader set of protections that the government seeks to create in its society.”

Of course, the internet companies have done more than issue press releases. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all currently suing the government concerning the gag order on Section 702 Orders. Yahoo fought back on a FISA Court order in 2008. Google is still in the process of fighting back against questionable National Security Letters, while Twitter, which turned down a request to be a part of the PRISM program has also fought hard against a so-called 2703(d) letter for info on its users.

And, yet, when faced with a much broader demand from the government, seeking info on every single phone call, neither AT&T nor Verizon lifted a finger in protest. And, contrary to Stratton’s claims, as the FISC ruling makes clear, both AT&T and Verizon had a clear legal path to appeal to make sure that the privacy of their customers was being protected. But they didn’t do that. And now Verizon wants to mock the internet companies? Stratton just couldn’t help himself it seems:

Stratton said that as a company, Verizon follows the law, and those laws are set by governments.

“The laws are not set by Verizon, they are set by the governments in which we operate. I think its important for us to recognise that we participate in debate, as citizens, but as a company I have obligations that I am going to follow.”

Again, one of those “obligations” is to protect the privacy of your customers, and as the court notes, Section 215 allows Verizon to challenge these orders and make sure they are appropriate. Verizon never did so. I agree that if it had challenged and then lost in court, Verizon would have had little recourse other than to hand over the info, but the facts remain that Verizon didn’t even take that basic step. And now it mocks those who have, pretending that all they’ve done is send out press releases, when the evidence shows they’ve done what Verizon has refused to do: go to court, in an effort to protect the privacy of their users.

Then there’s this laugher:

“This is not a question that will be answered by a telecom executive, this is not a question that will be answered by an IT executive. This is a question that must be answered by societies themselves.

“I believe this is a bigger issue, and press releases and fizzy statements don’t get at the issue; it needs to be solved by society.”

And just how is “society” supposed to answer that question when the whole program is kept secret from the American public? And part of that secrecy is because Verizon failed to do what it is allowed to do by law, and challenge the Section 215 bulk data collection orders?

Then he goes back to the bullshit talking points of the NSA:

“Verizon, like every communications company on the planet, operates in many jurisdictions, and our obligation in operating in those jurisdictions is to comply with the law in those places where we do business. So whether that be in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Japan, whoever it is that we have a licence with to operate our business, we have these obligations,” he said.

“As it relates to the NSA — as has been discussed, the information was conveyed under a very rigorous process that had oversight by all three branches of the United States government.”

No, it was not a vigorous process, in large part because of Verizon’s own failure to challenge the Section 215 orders it got. In that case, at least there would have been an adversarial hearing. There hasn’t been one because Verizon failed to do so. There’s a difference between just “complying with the law” and “rolling over and submitting” when the government comes to you with a bogus request, which even explains exactly how to challenge it in court. Verizon chose to roll over.

Already, we’ve seen that the vaunted “oversight by all three branches” is simply not true. It’s been revealed that Congress was not aware of large parts of the program, in part because some NSA defenders purposely kept their colleagues in the dark. The judicial system — the FISC — has admitted that it relies on what the NSA tells it, in part because of the lack of any adversary in court. And, once again, Verizon could have been that adversary, but instead, made the conscious decision not to do so.

“Verizon is not unique in the world in terms of its need to comply with the laws of the countries in which it operates. These requirements that are put upon it by governments, duly elected governments, are something that we are very careful about, very thoughtful about, and we work vigorously to protect the privacy of our customers data.”

A company that is “very careful” and “very thoughtful” and which works “vigorously to protect the privacy or our customer data” does not first volunteer to hand it over to the government, and then when given a broad order demanding every phone record choose to ignore the stated process by which it can challenge that order.

Perhaps this is why Verizon has been so quiet throughout all of this. When one of its execs opens his mouth, it just makes the company look worse.

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Companies: google, microsoft, twitter, verizon, yahoo

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Comments on “Same Day It's Revealed Verizon Has Never Challenged NSA, It Mocks Internet Companies For Doing So”

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Violynne (profile) says:

It’s amazing what comes out of the mouths of executives when they have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card at their disposal.

Of course he can say this crap. He’s above the law and the Constitution, thanks to the NSA.

Well, maybe this article will get plastered by Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft all over the place so Verizon customers can make that call…

… and switch to T-Mobile.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sprint and Tmo are better than ATT and Verizon as far as privacy, according to this article. And, there is research that shows that Tmo can get 4G speeds of 12mb, while ATT can get 10MB.

Tmo JUMP plan is better than ATT and Verizon, as analyzed elsewhere (Sprint hasn’t released their info yet)

Overall – the only thing wrong with Tmo is that they are not an American company…that they don’t have to play by all of the American laws. Or – is that a good thing right now?

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Taking the Government Money to sell out the Citizens of this Nation………as usual it is always about the greedy A-Hole Corporations.Never about standing up and protecting the Citizens.
We now wonder about these other Telcos……like T-Mobile, etc.I can just bet they all cave in to the Government Man.
What was needed when it all went down was for all those Telcos & High End Tech to SAY NO but they did not and now We can all sleep in the Bed they created.
The Day may just come that these big greedy rollers will be sorry they ever complied.They dig their own grave as well.

Ninja (profile) says:

“The laws are not set by Verizon, they are set by the governments in which we operate. I think its important for us to recognise that we participate in debate, as citizens, but as a company I have obligations that I am going to follow.”

Why yes, I’m sure many German companies complied with the holocaust. After all we’ve been contracted to help build/produce tools to kill unwanted people en masse. If only the Germans had stood up.

The guy is a complete moron.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Whoa whoa whoa. Really?

I know it is fashionable to dump on companies, but lets be clear about who the bad guy is in this situation: the US government. The government needs to be shrunk and its powers neutered. Sure, it would be nice if phone companies stuck up for people, but they are at the mercy of the government. They have a government granted monopoly. Of course they aren’t going to rock the boat.

I think people have to break their “occupy” mindset to realize the government is the enemy in this, not corporations, who are victims like us.

negruvoda (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, when the corporations have a vested interest in keeping the government the way it is they are not victims.
Verizon does not suffer from the data collection. It did not trample their customer’s privacy under duress. I simply handed over the data and now it’s exec is patting the company on the back and telling people to deal with it.

Reducing government may or may not be the answer, but you need to realize that large corporations are not victims of government, or even subject to the same restrictions as normal people. Corporations benefit from government granted monopolies, and they intend to have it that way for as long as possible. This way they do not need to rely on concepts such as free market or competition or customer privacy or even decent service at a decent price.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

Need I point out that corporations are setting, or at least influencing, government policy? Hardly a victim’s position. Who has seats at the tables of the TPP and other trade agreement discussions? Hint: not public interest groups.

While Occupy was somewhat misguided in believing that staging a giant sit-in could make a difference, they had the right idea on who the enemy is.

I should also point out that the phone companies were MAKING MONEY from selling our data to the government. And that the lobbyists are pretty much running the show.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are ways to try to keep the boat afloat while pushing back. Google/Yahoo/Twitter and the likes that he mocked are doing it. You don’t need to go all out but you don’t need to comply with it. I gave the extreme example but it’s exactly what his mindset is. Furthermore there are corporations that are somewhat victims indeed but the Government is corrupt BECAUSE of some big corporations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, I think it is appropriate.

Verizon basically came out with a “blah, blah, blah, our hands are tied” bullshit argument.

If Verizon actually cared about its customers, it would challenge the requests from the government to the full extent allowed by the law. Or at least protest really loudly.

It did not, which means that it implicitly supports the government’s actions.

Also, don’t be confused by the separation between “government” and “corporations”. The two are deeply interconnected these days. So a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” arrangement is to be expected. Indeed, the government gave telecoms near immunity in exchange for access to their data.

tl;dr: government and corporations are BOTH evil.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think people have to break their “occupy” mindset to realize the government is the enemy in this, not corporations, who are victims like us

This is pure bullshit. First, there was a legal process by which they could have fought while remaining within the law. Secondly, these “victims” have had an inordinate amount of influence in crafting the very laws they’re being “victimized” by.

They are hardly innocents. Yes, the US government is to blame, but we’re talking about corporations that are, in effect, parts of the government now.

Lionel S. says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think you quite understand how this works. Of course the government has to be shrinked and it’s powers neutered. That’s what everybody wants but you can’t just blame the government and expect them to shrink themselves. Somebody has to ACT. And a simple single citizen or even a group can’t do anything.

That’s why we need big corporations to fight back, because they have the power to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A Question

Nah, just USA.

They may have a few other countries, courtesy of AMDOCS (Israel company that runs telco billing software for a lot of telcos, was suspected of spying for Israel against USA). Now we have General Keith Alexander sending the very same data to Israel that AMDOCS was accused of spying on! Strange world isn’t it?

Vodafone is a company that repeatedly pops up in spying cases (e.g. Greece, and now the German purchase), it is certainly part of the GCHQ domestic spying, but its difficult to prove their data from abroad (Vodafone Spain, Vodafone Greece etc.) finds it ways back to NSA.

Curious I just searched to see if Vodafone and Amdocs are linked, and yes they are.

“Amdocs, Inc. and Vodafone have signed a five-year global managed services agreement for Vodafone’s customer care and billing domain based on Amdocs software applications. For customer care and billing based on Amdocs software applications, Vodafone selected Amdocs a global domain leader in communications software and IT services to be the managed services provider to deliver application development, operations and maintenance services, the company said. As part of this strategic agreement, Amdocs will establish a dedicated Shared Service and Development Center for Vodafone and this center will start with servicing Vodafone’s local markets in Germany, UK and the Netherlands. Working with Amdocs in a managed services model that centralizes support across markets enables Vodafone to improve its business agility, simplify operations and reduce risk. It also enables Vodafone to predefine desired performance levels, and improve on them for maximum control.”

out_of_the_blue says:

"Deafening silence" is at least more honest than pretending to oppose!

“Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all currently suing the government concerning the gag order on Section 702 Orders.” — Oh, big deal. Meanwhile, according to Snowden, NSA has “direct” access to Google and Facebook servers.

Spying is the main ‘business model’ of the internet, especially for Google and Facebook.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Stratton said that as a company, Verizon follows the law, and those laws are set by governments.”

So, if the law says that if you see any mixed raced couples holding hands you have to grab an axe and brutally chop them both to pieces, you’re simply following the law, because the government made the law. There’s no need to question why the law requires you to do something as morally wrong as murdering 2 innocent people.

Just like the Nazi’s, they were just following orders jailing and killing all of those Jews, gays, and other ‘undesirable’ people.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is interesting that the secrecy creates assumptions from FISC about telecompanies protecting costumer data from NSA as the standard position. By that assumption failing – as Verizon makes clear – very important pieces of FISCs basic reasonings becomes completely moot.

Also, I would go even further and say that Verizon seems to mock the concept of “consumer protection”, not just in terms of legal status, but as something to take serious. If I were a costumer at them, I would get out of dodge if at all possible or start pushing letters to politicians about the monopoly-behaviour.

Anonymous Coward says:

So says the Gerbil on the wheel!

The question is, exactly who has the power and position to oppose these secret, illegal laws and orders? When society is forbidden to even know what is happening and ATT does I would say the responsibility falls to them. They received the order and they had the opportunity and responsibility to object and they took as pass. This responsibility should extend to any country they do business in, that is called being a good corporate citizen. But the they have a long history of being irresponsible. ATT seems to forget that the government is one customer, as part of the “public” we are millions. So anger us at your own peril.

Loki says:

It’s been revealed that Congress was not aware of large parts of the program, in part because some NSA defenders purposely kept their colleagues in the dark.

If some of these people were in the dark (and I have sincere doubts many of them are as clueless as they like to claim) maybe, just maybe, they ought to go to work every day (like the rest of the world) and not just 3-4 months a year.

Seems to me if they put in an honest days work for their precious 170K+ salaries, they might actually know what’s going on, and not have to read about it in the newspapers.

Me says:

This attitude is another reason these companies cannot be trusted to serve their customers.

I worked for a predecessor of Verizon way back in the 90’s, and during the famous OJ Bronco chase, the only reason those helicopters were there filming was because people within the company leaked the cell-tower coordinates for OJ’s cellphone to the media and police. All **WITHOUT** a valid court order. Back then the company was extremely fearful that information would get out. Now they brag about similar behavior.

Randy Zagar (profile) says:

Anybody remember what happened to Qwest?

I do…

Once they refused the NSA request, they started losing government contracts…

This might explain the Telco’s reluctance to refuse overbroad requests. There’s already a precedent of losing government funding when you appear “adversarial”.

Anonymous Coward says:

consumer-centric IT firms

What on earth has this guy been smoking to make him think telcos are not consumer-centric IT companies. Oh wait… probably legislated rights of way, a system of coordinated mini-monopolies and anti-trust immunity.

There’s the old saying, “You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry”.

I hope Toolio enjoys his crystal set and lapel pin, cause they’ll be stuck without a chair when the music stops. Politicians never go down with the ship.

David (profile) says:

Ditching Verizon

I received a phone call this afternoon from a lady who said she was in the Executive Offices of the President of Verizon and she said they received my below letter and thanked me for the business.

President, Verizon
140 West Street
New York, NY 10007

September 12, 2013


Neither I nor any member of my family and none of my employees are terrorists or criminals in any way. We?re a simple, law-abiding, middle-class family and I own a simple health insurance agency. We are quite ordinary and we currently use Verizon?s phone services.

However, I am recently unsettled by disclosures of ongoing collaboration between Verizon and the NSA which opens our communications to government spying as if we were terrorists or criminals. None of those disclosures show that Verizon has fought against NSA intrusions on our privacy to the degree that those efforts would justify our continued use of your services.

Accordingly, my family is ending our phone services with Verizon as soon as our existing contracts permit (quite soon, really). Furthermore, neither members of my family nor my insurance agency will use a Verizon product or service ever again.


David W. Walters, Ph.D.

LeSinge (profile) says:

NSA via Verizon

I work for Verizon and we just had to do our annual CNPI and PII training which makes it a crime for us (the workers) to give out any customer information. It makes me furious that they tell us not to give out customer information but then turn around and give that and more customer information to the NSA thugs. I do not have Verizon as a service in any form and even though I work for them, I do not find their agenda.

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