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Telcos mum on wiretaps--until they get sued

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May 17, 2006

Telcos mum on wiretaps--until they get sued

Stephen Baker

Now Verizon and BellSouth say that USA Today got it wrong on the wiretapping story. I went back to the original story to make sure that the reporters called the phone companies before publishing. They did. Here's what Verizon had to say at the time:

Verizon, the USA's No. 2 telecommunications company behind AT&T, gave this statement: "We do not comment on national security matters, we act in full compliance with the law and we are committed to safeguarding our customers' privacy."

Doesn't it seem that if a leading newspaper is preparing to run an important national security story, and it contains errors, the source should do something to set it straight? Given Verizon's comment, USA Today had little inkling that it had the facts wrong--if in fact it did. Instead of issuing pro forma no comments, the phone companies could have told the reporters that they didn't appear to have the facts straight. That would have compromised nothing while sending an alert to the paper.

Then again, the agendas of the phone companies have shifted. Last week it was in their interest to keep mum on national security secrets. This week, they're focussed on in derailing multi-billion-dollar privacy law-suits. Here are views more critical of the press.

08:15 AM

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