Citing national security, Verizon Enterprise Solutions president John Stratton dismissed recent lawsuits against the government, filed by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, as "grandstanding" in the wake of a series of leaks by Edward Snowden. The companies are all locked in an effort to persuade the government to let them tell the public more about their exact relationship to the U.S. intelligence's data collection programs after Snowden's leaks let us all know about PRISM. The suits would also like to make more details publicly available on what the government requests.
Here are his remarks, made on Tuesday in Tokyo (via ZDnet, whose reporter, interestingly, traveled to Tokyo on Verizon's dime):
"I appreciate that the consumer-centric IT firms that you referenced [Yahoo, Google, Microsoft] that it's important to grandstand a bit, and waive their arms and protest loudly so as not to offend the sensibility of their customers," Stratton said. "This is a more important issue than that which is generated in a press release. This is a matter of national security."
Stratton said the larger issue that failed to be addressed in the actions of the companies is of keeping security and liberty in balance. "There is another question that needs to be kept in the balance, which is a question of civil liberty and the rights of the individual citizen in the context of that broader set of protections that the government seeks to create in its society."
After noting that he believes the proper place for a discussion of those laws is within society, and not among telecomm companies, Stratton addressed Verizon's own compliance in the NSA's data collection:
"Verizon, like every communications company on the planet, operates in many jurisdictions, and our obligation in operating in those jurisdictions is to comply with the law in those places where we do business. So whether that be in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Japan, whoever it is that we have a licence with to operate our business, we have these obligations," he said.
"As it relates to the NSA — as has been discussed, the information was conveyed under a very rigorous process that had oversight by all three branches of the United States government."
Meanwhile, in a FISC ruling released today, the secretive court governing the NSA's data collection programs reaffirmed the legality of the U.S.'s daily collection of phone records, in part, by blaming Congress and the phone companies who comply with the orders without going through the legal process of challenging those orders — specifically, no company confronted with such an order for phone records has ever challenged it.
To be fair to Stratton, the lawsuits he referenced are in part designed to increase the ability of the companies to respond to bad press related to current and future reports on NSA programs — at the moment, their hands are tied by government. And yet, his remarks follow Verizon's own PR pattern to avoid fallout after their cooperation with the NSA became well-known: just blame the government.