Verizon complied with warrantless demands for customer calling records hundreds of times since 2005, The Washington Post reports.
In a letter to Democratic congressmen, Verizon also said that it had complied with FBI national security letters requesting information on a second-degree of customers, those who were not themselves targets of a probe but had called or been called by suspects.
From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities on an emergency basis 720 times, it said in the letter. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order, the letter said. The information was used for a range of criminal investigations, including kidnapping and child-predator cases and counter-terrorism investigations.
Neither AT&T nor Qwest provided details on how many records they had turned over based on warrantless requests or national security letters.
"The responses from these telecommunications companies highlight the need of Congress to continue pressing the Bush administration for answers. The water is as murky as ever on this issue, and it's past time for the administration to come clean," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who launched the investigation with panel Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).
The revelations come after the Electronic Frontier Foundation used a Freedom of Information Act request to learn that the FBI engaged in "community of interest" requests and the Justice Dept. inspector general slammed the bureau for inappropriate use of the letters, which are essentially nonjudicial subpoenas.
"The privacy concerns are exponential each generation you go away from the suspect's number," said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney with the EFF. "This shows that further investigation by Congress and the inspector general is critical."
The House members requested the letters as part of deliberations over a bill that the White House wants to include full immunity from customer lawsuits for the telcos.