November 21st, 2008
05:08 PM ET
10 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. Tex Ann ~~~~~~~

    Ditto to what Terry in AZ said.

    November 21, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  2. j. williams

    get use to not go against the 'great oz'....

    November 21, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  3. Melissa

    I think that the school choice that President Elect Obama and his family made for their girls should not have been announce in the news; for the safty of the kids....

    November 21, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  4. thewrittenroad

    Can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing ... Kinda like when the UCLA medics got fired for releasing Britney's information. Curiosity kills!

    November 21, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  5. Vicki5

    What's with the suspended "with pay"?

    November 21, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  6. Cheese and Whine

    Oh, you mean the Patriot Act didn't protect them?

    I guess the unemployment rate is now that much closer to be 7%.

    Good luck in this job market. I hope your house gets foreclosed on.

    November 21, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  7. Ex-Republican for Obama

    They should be executed on Pay Per View!

    November 21, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  8. Walt, Belton,TX

    Maybe Congress should look into this, since they don't have anything else they seem to be able to handle.............

    November 21, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  9. jon

    since they did not need their jobs can get this job

    November 21, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  10. CG

    What's the big deal? If he's done nothing wrong, he has nothing to hide, right? Right?

    The government tracks all our calls all the time. Someone found the actual hardware that does it (

    Obama voted to grant amnesty to the phone companies that facilitated this illegal domestic spying. If he changes his stance, I'll change mine.

    November 21, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  11. Mark, Boston, MA

    Why is this a problem? The government, with the help of companies like Verizon and AT&T, has been tracking and monitoring all of our phone calls since before 9/11. Obama didn't oppose this when it came time to vote. Turnabout is fair play, no?

    November 21, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  12. Charles from Atlanta

    Of course they should be fired. Their actions violate Customer proprietary network information (CPNI) FCC regulation. This applies to all customers, not just Obama.

    November 21, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  13. Cori from Colorado

    They were probably republican spies. Serves them right getting fired. It's illegal to access phone records. Corporations have employees committing acts of crime every day, I'm just glad they got caught!

    November 21, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  14. Lolita

    yes i agree they should have kept it professional at ALL times no matter what know what they say curiosity ALWAYS kills the cat!!

    November 21, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. Katherine

    I'm glad that the whole thing was taken care of.

    I am also glad that they fired them, instead of suspending them with pay.

    November 21, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. Bonnie, Las Vegas

    Shows how easy it is for others to peer into our lives. Kudos to Verizon for firing the employees. Question – are you doing the same for us "regular folks"?

    November 21, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. Sian

    I'm not surprised at any bad behavior on the part of Verizon or its employees. Their standards are abhorrent.

    November 21, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  18. Joe From Florida

    Just have to wonder if they were here in the US or at a call center somewhere else like India? We have too much data exposed to too many people in too many countries

    November 21, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  19. Bev

    Verixon Wireless has lost my support. How do I know they will not do it to average like me. When these idiots are bored they could easily page through your stuff after you contacted them for somethign. I do not trust Verizon Wireless now.

    November 21, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  20. Steve

    Funny how the woman who illegally accessed Joe the plumber's files was merely suspended a month without pay, but not fired. I know he is not as important as the President, but equal time for equal crimes.

    November 21, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  21. MK

    These employees had the same "idol curiosity" that W has given to the NSA to spy on all our phone calls, cell or land lines. What happened to Obama is the SAME thing happening to all our calls thanks to W. Who is going to fire the NSA? The "appropriate federal law enforcement authorities" are not going to do anything about it or else they would have to stop spying on all Americans. We have all been in the mindset of anything to keep us safe, due to the fear monger in office, and we can't stop any of this now. Thanks George.

    November 21, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  22. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Those dummies didn't read about Watergateand don't expect to file a law suit, you can't win.

    November 21, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  23. Wait a minute---

    Employess were fired for hacking into Obama's cell phone records-
    what's the punishmnet for the person who hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail? That case was a worse offense since the person published the information on a websire.

    November 21, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  24. JT in SC


    November 21, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. Slaton

    Gee, and there I was hoping we would find out how connected he was to Bill Ayers !

    November 21, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6