Verizon security chief used to be high level official at FBI

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
Font Size:

The current chief of security of Verizon, a company embroiled in controversy over the recent revelation of a secret government domestic spy program, is a former high level official in the FBI.

Michael Mason, Verizon’s chief security officer, began working with the company in 2008. When he left the bureau, he was in charge of the bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

The branch — whose responsibilities range from investigating financial crime to “computer-based criminal threats against the U.S.” — was described in his hiring announcement in 2007 as the “largest” in the FBI.

Also a veteran who served with the United States Marine Corps from 1980-1985, Mason began his distinguished career with the FBI in 1985. He was awarded the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive Service at the FBI in 2004.

At Verizon, he oversees and coordinates “global security efforts throughout Verizon and all its business units, including enterprisewide security strategy and programs, physical security, cyber security and law-enforcement security matters.”

The Guardian reported late Tuesday evening that — in response to a request from the FBI — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the nation’s spy court, secretly ordered Verizon to quietly hand over data about all phone calls inside of the U.S.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, confirmed that the order was a routine 90-day renewal of a “lawful” program ongoing for the past seven years.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the National Security Agency was also collecting similar information from AT&T and Sprint Nextel, as well as credit card transactions and records from Internet service providers.

Addressing The Guardian article in an internal memo to employees Thursday morning, Randy Milch — Verizon’s executive vice president and general counsel — made no comment on the accuracy of The Guardian’s story, but said that if the company were to receive such an order it would be “required to comply.”

In a separate expose by The Washington Post Thursday evening, the federal government via the NSA was revealed to be collecting troves of “metadata” from companies – including “address packets and device signatures.

This type of effort by the NSA was first exposed when former AT&T technician Mark Klein went public about his knowledge of a secret room at a San Franciscio AT&T facility that intercepted all Internet traffic.

BLARNEY is a parallel program to a project called PRISM, which provides NSA intelligence analysts with direct access to the servers of major Internet companies.

Those companies — Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple — have vehemently denied participating in PRISM, as well as having knowledge of PRISM.

The Guardian reported on Friday that the British government was also benefiting from intelligence gained through PRISM.

The Obama administration and members of Congress briefed on matters of intelligence defended the legality of the programs and have called it a “critical tool” in the nation’s fight against terrorism.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told members of Congress in March that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans, declassified certain parts of the program Thursday evening in attempt to address public concerns.

President Barack Obama dismissed the outrage over the programs by civil liberties advocates as “hype” during a press conference Friday.

Verizon and the FBI declined The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

Follow Josh on Twitter