A View From The Handbasket

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
This statement is false
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:52 PM
So Verizon and Bellsouth are denying, in very careful language, that they have been providing "customer data" to the NSA, as reported in USA Today and commented on here earlier.

While it's tempting to parse the statements (for instance, "customer data" might refer to actual information on customers, not just phone numbers), Think Progress reports that it might be a moot point in any event.

On May 5 (less than two weeks ago), the President issued a memorandum giving John Negroponte the authority to act as the President in enforcing 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A). And what, you may ask, is 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)? That part of the Securities Exchange Act concerns the penalties for publicly traded companies lying to the public. The clause in question states:

With respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States, no duty or liability under paragraph (2) of this subsection shall be imposed upon any person acting in cooperation with the head of any Federal department or agency responsible for such matters if such act in cooperation with such head of a department or agency was done upon the specific, written directive of the head of such department or agency pursuant to Presidential authority to issue such directives. Each directive issued under this paragraph shall set forth the specific facts and circumstances with respect to which the provisions of this paragraph are to be invoked. Each such directive shall, unless renewed in writing, expire one year after the date of issuance.

In other words, publicly traded companies are allowed to lie if it's done in the interest of national security in cooperation with the government. And Bush just happened to tell Negroponte a few days before the story broke that he was authorized to issue such directives.

Which, of course, proves nothing, but is quite intriguing nonetheless.

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