November 21st, 2008
05:08 PM ET
6 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. Joyce Becker

    Good they were fired, we don't need any spies in Verizon!!

    November 21, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. Ms. B in California

    what a shame. Curiosity always kills the cat.

    November 21, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. A Kickin' Donkey ...

    Barack should follow suit and FIRE anyone on his team that engages in leaks.

    He should not call on news organizations that promote or publish false or leaked stories.

    I want to see this thing tightened up .... I don't want the kind of environment we've had for the last 8 years.

    Teach the media that fast and loose is a thing of the past.

    November 21, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. mb

    No better for them, I hope none of them have families. Because now is not the time for anyone to loose their job over something stupid.

    November 21, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Dave in NYC

    My question is how many other of the thousands of Verizon employees are snooping through our private records out of "idle curiosity?"

    Its time to re-strengthen our privacy laws to protect consumers!

    November 21, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  6. Mike Dallas

    And so they should have been.

    November 21, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. Diana Ewing NJ

    Maybe they thought they were inacting the Patriot Act.

    November 21, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Sparky

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

    Apparently, it is acceptable for Verizon employees to breach the records of customers so long as they are not "customers of note."

    November 21, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. Paul Wall in Dallas

    TyWebb-your post is the gold standard now. that's the funniest post i've read all day. thanks for that.

    November 21, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  10. ROCHELLE

    President-Elect Obama, Please have the White House sweep before you step foot in there again! Especially when Bush exits and now that you've hired Hillary and Bill Clinton Mrs. Secretary of State and Mr. Secretary. This is a partnership that is divisive and sneaky. I hope that you truly have your back watched.

    November 21, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  11. Patricia in Las Vegas

    Doesn't Verizon do due dilligence on their employees? What happened to integrity?

    November 21, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  12. Obi-Wan

    At least we know who has been leaking all the staff positions

    November 21, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  13. Simmy

    Two strikes and you're out Peeping Toms and Tomasenas!

    November 21, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  14. Liberal in Los Angeles, CA

    That's what they get for being nosy!!

    November 21, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. Lynne

    I heard someone on CNN said that Obama caused these people to get fired...are you kidding me?

    OK...say I work at a bank and I steal all of the money out of your account and the bank finds out and fires me for it...Then I say it's all your fault that I got fired. Make sense? I don't think so!

    If you work in an industry where you have access to people's personal information, you sign a confidentiality agreement saying that you promise to keep that confidentiality or you can be fired or prosecuted. These employees clearly violated a customer's privacy and stole their information. They should be fired and prosecuted if they gave those records to anyone outside the company.

    November 21, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Brian

    I am glad to know that Verizon Wireless is taking this seriously.

    As a Verizon Wireless customer, I am pleased to know that my privacy is protected.

    I will never switch – Verizon has been good to me.

    November 21, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Mike T. Vaughn

    LOL Who did they Fire?? McCain and Palin??? So that's was where they got their info from for there ads........lol

    November 21, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Robert in raleigh

    And they should have been......

    November 21, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Angelina

    Re: Obama School choice for family

    Security is a must for this family, so please quit the nasty attacks and wish the future US First Family well. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were not raised with silver spoons, or government handouts, so let's work together a help this newly elected President make the much needed necessary changes. PEACE!

    November 21, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  20. herman

    glad they got fired. this has got to stop. not only for PE Obama but for all of us. I wouldn't want my records viewed either. where are your manners???

    November 21, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  21. Griff

    Afganistan... Russia has got you and the World, Cleaning up their mess, while they build idea's on Europe... Poland, first... Then pick off unsuspected small Countries... Another 1939 Plus;...

    November 21, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  22. Raven

    serves them right...

    November 21, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  23. Silence Dogood

    Of course these folks should have been fired. But this was not national news. Just a bad choice by a few dimwits.

    But the Obama folks made it headlines as a repeated story as a veiled warning – don't question Obama. Got it? They Will Find You.

    Did anyone notice the Gross Over-reaction: "Verizon ... initially put on leave all employees who had access to the account — "whether authorized or not"" Maybe the ones who were authorized were just THINKING of doing harm (thought police?)

    November 21, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  24. Rick

    They should be fired. Now the Ohio state employee that dug into Joe the Plumber's record should be fired as well. But will the democrats in Ohio do the right thing?

    November 21, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  25. Cheryl

    Apparently the employees who violated the constitution in order to provide customer information (without warrant) to the government were hired to, well, I guess violate the constitution and to hell with the customers.

    Did they fire them too?

    We all know the answer to that one – NO, not only weren't they fired, the company lobbied to the tune of millions of dollars, along with AT&T, to make sure they weren't even held accountable.

    Can we spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e-s?

    November 21, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
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