Critics call out telephone giants on privacy invasion

WASHINGTON: On the same day last week that USA Today reported that Verizon, BellSouth, and AT&T have been "secretly" providing call records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency (NSA), 72 members of Congress declared support for the Center of Constitutional Rights' lawsuit against "warrantless spying."

WASHINGTON: On the same day last week that USA Today reported that Verizon, BellSouth, and AT&T have been "secretly" providing call records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency (NSA), 72 members of Congress declared support for the Center of Constitutional Rights' lawsuit against "warrantless spying."

Neither AT&T nor Verizon would comment. A BellSouth spokesperson said the company "does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."

Danny Briere, CEO of telecom consultancy TeleChoice, said little is known about customers' views on electronic surveillance, in part because phone companies and intelligence agencies haven't given details. But he said telecom PR pros will surely restrict answers to "Trust us. We care about privacy."

While this may also heat up the debate on whether Gen. Michael Hayden, ex-NSA chief, should be confirmed as the new CIA head, DC PR consultant David Henderson said the question of surveillance transcends that.

"How is this impacting the reputation of the [US]?" he asked.

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