November 21st, 2008
05:08 PM ET
9 years ago

Verizon employees fired over Obama cell phone breach

Obama's cell phone records were breached.

Obama's cell phone records were breached.

(CNN) - Verizon Wireless has fired employees connected with a breach of records from a cell phone used earlier this year by President-elect Barack Obama, a Verizon source told CNN Friday.

The source would not say how many people were terminated, but said that "we now consider this matter closed."

Verizon reported the breach Thursday, and Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the transition team had been notified Wednesday. Gibbs said the president-elect no longer uses that phone, which has been inactive for months.

The fired employees were hired "to take care of customers," the Verizon source told CNN, and were not authorized to access customer records unless asked to do so by the customer.

The source also said the employees in question could not have read text messages, if Obama sent or received them, and would not have been able to access the content of any voicemail messages, although they would have been able to see if any had been left.

"This was some employees' idle curiosity," the source said, adding that records of no other customers of note were breached.

Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology said the employees likely had access to the dates and times of calls, the length of calls and the telephone numbers of those Obama spoke with.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said Thursday that the company initially put on leave all employees who had access to the account - "whether authorized or not" - during an investigation.

McAdam said the device on the account was a simple voice flip-phone - not a BlackBerry or other smartphone designed for e-mail or other data services - meaning none of Obama's e-mail could have been accessed.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, has launched an internal probe to determine if Obama's information was shared only among employees or whether "the information of our customer had in any way been compromised outside our company, and this investigation continues," McAdam said in an internal company e-mail obtained by CNN.

The company has alerted "the appropriate federal law enforcement authorities," McAdam said.

- CNN's Brian Todd and Ed Henry contributed to this report

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (136 Responses)
  1. TyWebb

    Can you fire (hear) me now?

    November 21, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. Baze

    Neocon spies

    November 21, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. Reality

    The same high school dropouts have access to YOUR phone records too. Since YOU are not a "person of note" no one will ever know what they do with that info. Food for thought.

    November 21, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  4. Gremblin, SD

    Well, I guess the matter is closed now, but I don't think I would have fired them. I would have transferred them somewhere where they couldn't do any harm. It's a tough time to get fired, even if it was their fault.

    November 21, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. HouseDiva

    serves them right

    November 21, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. Michael, Houston Texas

    Isn't that considered eavesdropping and can they be jailed for that?

    November 21, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Mickey

    I was against the government being able to get people's cell phone records without a warrant. That was and still is unconsititutional. This is wrong too.

    November 21, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Now if only they can fire the NSA people for spying on us.

    November 21, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. CanIcallyouJoe

    I realize that The Presidential position is am important one (although I still can't figure out why, since 'President' is a title of the highest rank of civil servitude – meaning he works for us, the people) but would this not be completely legal by the Patriot Act?

    Why would they be punished?

    Verizon is one of the telecom companies given retroactive immunity by the Patriot Act. So, they get in trouble for accessing records they keep on a user that just happens to be Obama, but they are totally fine for not only accessing, but recording all of ours? If these records are so important, then stop recording his cellphone whereabouts. You just as easily can pinpoint mine and record it, so do the opposite for him and we wouldn't have to be fed this garbage.

    Can I alert the appropriate authorities on the recording of my emails, phones and even this very comment? I'd like my coupon to not be spied on by the 1984 big brother machine sooner, rather than later please.

    November 21, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Ann

    Unfortunately in this age of instant news and everyone wanting a scoop on something, the temptation looks to be too tempting sometimes. We had the breach of Palin's email looking for something scandalous and this, probably hoping to find out something as well. Perhaps the need for everyone to feel that we all need to know everything has gone too far.

    November 21, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Barbara in NC

    What a lesson those people learned. But it's a lesson that should be taken to heart. Too many people snooping where they have no business is never a good idea. Hope they find jobs soon. It's not a very good time to be unemployed. (If you're fired, you cannot get unemployment pay).

    November 21, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Griff

    So? Why? I still can't understand all this Trsh about Obama..
    It will be like teaching a Kid: Poker...
    Yet Black's, and Obama wilol take all the "Winnings' For having No Skills at-all... Real Stupid OBAMA won only because ghe was Black (First) and .Young (second)... No Skills!

    November 21, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. Patty in the CA mountains

    I would think so!!! And wouldn't at all be surprised to find out they were paid by outsiders to provide those records....wonder who?

    November 21, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Boered1

    we now consider this matter closed."

    I Don't we should see Verizon CEO and the specific employees brought up on charges and verizon should be hit with LARGE fines... say $25 billion, if they are doing this to him are they doing it to us? No one cares if they do it to us! the telecommunications companies feel they can now spy on Americans without reprecussions because bushie, along with the liar hillary who voted FOR it, approved amnesty to the telecommunications people once already for spying on us!

    November 21, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. earle,florida

    Wow, can you imagine the audacity of these jerks,what the heck is going on...?

    November 21, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  16. Latina-Indepedent-4-OBAMA

    Good, its a breach of privacy.

    November 21, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. Terry, Winslow, AZ

    And they should have been fired. Not because it's O'bama, because they shouldn't be looking at anyone's records unless it's in the line of work.

    November 21, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. bk

    I think the people in Ohio that got into Jo the plumbers records should be fired before these people.

    November 21, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. Matt

    Yet when they went through Joe the Plumbers and Sarah Palins records and phone calls they kept their jobs. Double standard much?

    November 21, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  20. Richie

    Does it bother anyone else that random employees can access any customer's records, regardless of their particular identity? Shouldn't that be possible only with some identifying information provided by the customer? Egads.

    November 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. Marge

    How come these employees were fired, and the woman who sent the employees to search Joe the Plumber's records only got a small suspension....gee two different standards...happens every time.

    November 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. Perusing-Through

    What a bunch of dumb@$$.

    November 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Toby

    Before the conspiracy theorists jump on this, it should be noted that idle curiosity is a widespread human characteristic. Such people should be removed from temptation, however, as they could produce at least the appearance of impropriety on the part of some greater entity - which I'm sure will be confirmed by the theorists in short order.

    November 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  24. Janet

    Well; isn't it something that they fired these employees, but didn't do anything about Joe the Plumbers phone records being breached. I say Joe's phone records were just as important as Obama's. So Verizon was wrong in firing those employees. The others weren't fired. I say give them their jobs back.

    November 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  25. Mike

    I had always heard "rumors" about cell phone companies, banks and credit card companies having not so ethical employees that would check information on family, celebrities, "friends” and neighbors, just to be nosey, gossipers or just plain cruel. I guess this puts these types of actions in the lime-light...finally

    November 21, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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