In recent days, AT&T, Bell South and Verizon have all issued statements denying that they’ve handed over phone records to the NSA, as reported by USA today.
There are three possibilities:
1) The USA Today story is inaccurate;
2) The telcos left enough wiggle room in the statements that both the USA Today story and their statements are accurate; or
3) The statements from the telcos are inaccurate.
Ordinarily, a company that conceals their transactions and activities from the public would violate securities law. But an presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))
There is no evidence that this executive order has been used by John Negroponte with respect to the telcos. Of course, if it was used, we wouldn’t know about it.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the May 5 document as an “executive order.” It is a presidential memorandum.
UPDATE II: Greg Sargent unpacks the Verizon and Bell South denials.