Staff at Verizon Communications Inc on Thursday were told that under U.S. law the telecommunications company can be compelled to secretly share data with federal authorities.
The internal email to staff followed the publication on Wednesday of a secret court order requiring Verzion to turn over call records of millions of Verizon Communications customers to the National Security Agency.
The Obama administration has acknowledged that it is collecting a massive amount of telephone records from at least one telephone provider, reopening the debate over privacy even as it defended the practice as necessary to protect Americans against attack.
Verizon representatives declined comment.
In the internal email obtained by Reuters, Verizon's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Public Policy Randy Milch told the company's staff that "the law authorizes the federal courts to order a company to provide information in certain circumstances, and if Verizon were to receive such an order, we would be required to comply."
The email to Verizon staff also notes that an alleged court order, which was leaked Wednesday, contained language that would compel Verizon to respond and also forbids Verizon from revealing its existence.
The order can be seen at: r.reuters.com/kap68t
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Washington and Sinead Carew in New York; editing by Andrew Hay)