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. Dan, TX

    I don't want them looking at my records unnecessarily either. Fire them!

    November 21, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  2. vs

    hahahah stupid i wirk for ATT you never do that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! against company policey

    November 21, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  3. vic

    Send these varmints to jail....then they'll think twice before pulling another stunt like that.

    November 21, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  4. viper

    they spy on us
    but god forgive if you spy on them

    November 21, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  5. kaushik jadunundun

    this is a clear message to anyone else who would want to unwarrantedly poke their nose in other people's private life be it the President of the US or any ordinary citizen.....serve them verizon ex employers well..and please not unemployement benefits for these suckers

    November 21, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  6. jean brandt

    Firing the employees involved is exactly what ANY of the phone companies would do. It is a serious code of conduct violation to even access any customer's account records without that customer's express permission. I work for one of the major phone companies and, believe me, everyone who works iin the telecom industry is absoluitely aware that they will be harshly disciplined – likely termination of their employment – for this type of behavior.

    November 21, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. D Seattle

    Maybe now you will FOCUS!!!

    November 21, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  8. Griff

    Let's get together and be alright... How Stupid America.. You allowed an Idiot to Demoralise, an Hero.. There is no Together...
    Just Men! Real Men!.. He has done nothing for America... Nothing.
    He is Black. Period... They keep making up Trash, about Obama...
    He is in Line for "The Presidency... But He Is Garbage... He is Black.
    He is Young.... America/// Now You start to Eat Dirt...
    Obama is an Idiot that nobody in thew Real World would Elect for a Jr Executive Position... This Your Choice!!! You have to be dum..
    The World goes on... America goes Backwards...

    November 21, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  9. Leesa

    I would like to know how this even came to light. Is someone in the gov paid to spy at the phone company? I bet our tax dollars are involved. If he doesn't have the phone anymore, why are we talking about it? How about fix the economy and worry about something important, that doesn't include where the First children are going to school!

    November 21, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  10. Don't forget----

    If you want the Verizon employees punished for hacking into Obama's cell phone records, then you have to crucify the guy who hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail since he not only hacked into it but published it on a web site?

    What say you????

    November 21, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  11. JIM...TX

    Verizon was probably one of the phone companies Bush BS'd into spying on regular folks so now they get rightous...thats laughable 🙂

    November 21, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  12. MikeH

    I would like to hear if this was a bunch of nosy employees, or a group of covert Republican operatives planted for the campaign.

    November 21, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. Lorelei

    We should not be surprised if Verizon employees think they're above the law. Verizon (and AT&T) agreed to spy on U.S. citizens WITHOUT A WARRANT for the Bush administration six months before 9/11. Kudos to Quest for not going along!

    November 21, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  14. nat

    @ jon – get over it, hater. Obama's in the "House" now. stop cryin.

    November 21, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  15. SHELLI

    Who ever it was they should have and the manager/supervisor also. These people must not have been vetted! President-Elect Obama should not have to go through this mess. I wonder what goods they have on the Clintons, Bushes, Chaney's, Rumsfelds, Swartskoffs etc. I am sure that Verizon is not the only cell phone company that has made this mistake and mess of someone's life.

    November 21, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Trasa, Texas

    It was a stupid thing to do and who cares who Obama is calling and receiving phone calls from. Besides, how can you tell when it only reads just a number. It's not like it reads 903-555-5555 Bill Clinton. It was none of there business and good that they fired them. Just makes me wonder who else's records they are looking into.

    November 21, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  17. A Woman In California For Obama

    Good they should have been. How unprofessional. I never like Verizon anyway. Some people just can't be given responsibility.

    November 21, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  18. easy rider - gun toting in Tennessee - OBAMA

    I wonder if Verizon outsources their customer calls to a generic call center or if they are legitimate VERIZON customers.

    People need to understand that when they call their 800 number for health insurance, MAY NOT BE THE COMPANY YOU THINK IT IS...meaning these companies employ people to work in a BIG call center that handles several different customers.

    I got a call from Embarq soliciting phone service, and when I asked about call completion and dropped call statistics, the rep couldn't answer, because the rep was OUTSOURCED to a CALL CENTER COMPANY. That wouldn't have happened if they legitimately worked for the company.

    Call centers are a BIG business. Go investigate, and wonder about which $8 an hour employee is accessing YOUR personal information.

    November 21, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  19. Salihu Takko (Nigeria)

    Can any of the fired peepers send me Bill Ayers number? I'm so desparate to have a chart with him, pls!

    November 21, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  20. Scott

    Wow, glad I'm not a Verizon customer, I would hate to be worried about my phone. I hope AT&T hasn't been doing anything like that to my phone.

    November 21, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  21. Mark, Boston, MA

    Bonnie, yes, Verizon, and all the other major telecommunications companies (besides Qwest, I believe) have been shipping all their telephone and internet traffic through computers run by the NSA. They've been doing it since before 9/11. Privacy is a fundamental right, but the telcos are not interested in protecting it.

    November 21, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  22. Lisa

    Good move by Verizon. The current administration has set a tone that violating civil rights and abuse of power is ok. It is not and the new administration will address quickly and restore our faith in the system.

    November 21, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. AP

    Bonnie, Las Vegas November 21st, 2008 6:23 pm ET

    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"?

    Are you kidding me? Do you really think that any service provider would fire their employees for breach any other individuals?

    November 21, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. Nic

    Now how about firing Dick Cheney and the rest of his hoodlums for spying on our phone records?

    November 21, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  25. Texas Teacher

    I wish the Republicans here would just get a grip on reality! YOU LOST! After what your GUY has done and is still trying to do.... I think you would want to just crawl under a rock and hide your faces for shame! Instead, you continue to whine and criticize.... it boogles the mind! No, it doesn't! It is what you do best! 🙂 UNLESS it is YOUR GUY!

    November 21, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6