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. Mark F

    I have a friend who used to work at a bank, and she got in trouble a few years ago because she accessed our current president's bank account info. No harm intended–she was just being nosy. For her trouble, she spent several hours being grilled by federal law enforcement agents. Funny, though–she also poked around in Stephen Malkmus' account and no one seemed to care.

    November 21, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  2. annie - never again a dem.

    Does it surprise anyone he chose the same school Chelsea went to? Everything else in his campaign is Clinton – why not his children's school?

    November 21, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. rafael

    Now that this has happened to a high profile personality like President Obama, I would like to know if Verizon is willing to admit that cellphone networks are generally vulnerable to breaches of all kinds. For almost a year now, I have been complaining about my ex-girlfriend hacking into my account.

    November 21, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  4. lisa

    What parameters has Verizon put in place, across the board, for customer service employees accessing account info, so those of us who are customers are not violated the same way Obama was?

    November 21, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  5. Lauren


    When Palins email got hacked, every Democrat around thought it was Ok to reveal her emails accounts. They all said she should have to let everyone see them. But NOW,,, the Messiah has his phone hacked and heads will roll.

    November 21, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  6. Alex

    "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"?"

    Nope. Actually, Obama caved and signed this past summer's new FISA bill that immunizes the telecom companies who helped in Bush's illegal wiretapping crimes (let's face it, they're not policies, they're constitutional violations!). So the thousands of "regular folks" whose records have been accessed and copied for government databasing have no recourse against such behavior. Republicans and Democrats alike have sold our rights to privacy and rights against unlawful search and seizure.

    November 21, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  7. Riaz

    They just made some one victim of circumstances for lack of their processes.. Shame Verizon!!! You should fire the whole bunch of guys who failed to put in the processes in place with respect to the security. This is like firing the thief but not the person who kept the vault open !!! Shame Verizon !!! Explain your security processes to your customers in your website!!!

    November 21, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  8. KJL

    I didn't think anyone in customer service worked in the USA. I always get some guy in India.

    November 21, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  9. msbea

    so does this show up on their back ground checks?

    November 21, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  10. JAN

    MikeH...BTW ur spot on!!!

    November 21, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  11. Zee

    Verizon is the spy's phone company of choice. Tmobile all the way!

    November 21, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  12. Angie-OHIO

    GOOD. they got what they deserved.

    November 21, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  13. Stephy

    he should have been with AT&T!

    November 21, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  14. pam Eugene OR

    What a shame. That was a stupid thing to do and they are paying a very dear price for it.
    My bet is that Obama would not have wanted them fired. That is not the kind of guy he is.
    He did not want Lieberman fired and he did WAY worse things.
    Obama is not a vengeful man. I wish I was half as kind as he is.

    November 21, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  15. Sylvia

    I am glad those idiots got fired! You do not violated other people's rights and now they are paying for not respecting President-elect's rights. This will teach them a lesson.

    November 21, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  16. Republican in Virginia

    That's why you go At&T! Verizon sux...

    November 21, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  17. Joan

    Invasions into our privacy is happening more and more. Hospital records are obtained and shared. Employees download lists of social security numbers. Recently, a federal employee (who began dating a prisoner who is a gang leader in southern California) downloaded a list of all prisoners who were members of rival gangs.

    This just didn't happen 10-20 years ago...are we becoming more snoopy, less careful with private information, or just willing to do anything (even break the law) in order to get our hands on someone else's personal data? What's up with these people? Is it simply that technology is making all this information available, and employees simply aren't as trustworthy as they should be?

    November 21, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. Pat Green (CA)

    I'm sure these Verizon employees have looked into other people's records....ex boyfriends, ex girlfriends, ex friends, husbands, wives, you name it. Abuse of their job. Glad tey got fired....AND they shouldn't be able to collect unemployment either....that should be only given to the people who have been laid off due to the economy!

    November 21, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  19. KLEE

    Best comment: TyWebb!! thanks for that 🙂

    November 21, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  20. kimberly

    why did it take so long? if this had been any other 'president elect' they'd have been fired as soon as it happened.

    November 21, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  21. thomas

    What's the big deal? Aren't all of our calls being monitored?

    November 21, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  22. Its about time

    When you breach into someone's personal records and life you should pay the price for doing so, I do not feel sorry for anyon including these goofs who screw up. They knew exactly what they were doing, not they lost there jobs..... more people should be made to face the music

    November 21, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Craig Nazor

    Verizon was one of the telecos that got "pardoned" at the request of the Bush Administration, and it is ironic that Obama, although he didn't like that particular provision of the FISA bill, voted for the after-the-fact but before-the-investigation pardon. It just goes to show that no "good" deed goes unpunished...

    The telecos should have all been investigated and charged with any crimes that may have been committed by their eavesdropping on behalf of Bush.

    November 21, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. Sue in MI

    Isn't this illegal? Or did Bush take care of that for the phone companies?

    November 21, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  25. petena

    well done.

    November 21, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
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