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Did Verizon And BellSouth Lie About Their Role In The NSA Scandal?

The big headlines this week in the NSA records-collection scandal were generated by Verizon and BellSouth, which denied having turned over the records in question. Does this mean the original USA Today report about the NSA program was inaccurate? Or were Verizon and BellSouth flat-out lying?

The answer, not surprisingly, is: It's complicated. So here goes.

Take a minute, if you will, and read the statement Verizon put out on May 16, dealing with the NSA issue. If you are a telecom person, you will immediately grasp why the general press's coverage of Verizon's "denial" was so misleading.

Note the emphasis in the statement on businesses that Verizon was involved in back in September 2001. Note the careful wording that excludes MCI from the scope of the denial being issued (while not mentioning MCI). In this release, MCI is -- pick your cliche -- the dog that doesn't bark, the hand of the magician that you're not supposed to watch, whatever.

Note, even, the title of the release: "Verizon Issues Statement on NSA Media Coverage." Get it? They're not even claiming that this release addresses the substance of the NSA program. It's a press release about press coverage of the program. But if the general media wants to report it as a blanket denial, well, that's the general media's problem.

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