By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2008
None of President-elect Barack Obama's voice mails were listened to nor were his e-mails viewed by Verizon Wireless employees who accessed his personal cellphone account, a spokesman on the transition team said yesterday.
Verizon Wireless said company officials discovered earlier this week that "a number" of employees had breached the personal cellphone account of the president-elect. All employees who accessed the account, even those with authorization, were immediately put on leave with pay.
Employees who improperly breached the account "will face appropriate disciplinary action," Verizon said in a statement. Those with "legitimate business needs" for accessing Obama's account will be allowed to return to their positions.
The cellphone account had been inactive for several months, said transition spokesman Tommy Vietor.
Verizon, based in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 71,000 employees worldwide, said the phone used for the account was a flip phone primarily used for voice services, as opposed to a smartphone device such as the BlackBerry.
The incident comes amid questions about whether Obama, an avid user of technology who famously used the Web for outreach and fundraising during his campaign, should use a wireless device for sending and receiving e-mail and other data. Some have said the devices could be a security risk. Others have pointed out that the Presidential Records Act will provide access to all of Obama's communication as president, including e-mail.