Post article contradicts claim in its subhead -- attributed to U.S. government -- that telecoms are "not cooperating" with surveillance program

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE & JEREMY SCHULMAN

The subhead of a Washington Post article asserted that according to the U.S. government, some telecommunications firms are "not cooperating" with the Bush administration's surveillance efforts "for fear of liability" following the expiration of the Protect America Act. In fact, the article itself stated: "[A]dministration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program, according to an official familiar with the issue."

The subhead of a February 23 Washington Post article asserted that according to the U.S. government, some telecommunications firms are "not cooperating" with the Bush administration's surveillance efforts "for fear of liability" following the expiration of the Protect America Act -- a claim contradicted by the article itself. The article's headline and subhead read:

Spy Law Lapse Blamed for Lost Information

Some Telecom Firms Not Cooperating for Fear of Liability, U.S. Says

But in contrast with the subhead's assertion that according to the "U.S.," some firms are "not cooperating" with the program, the article itself reported:

The Bush administration said yesterday that the government "lost intelligence information" because House Democrats allowed a surveillance law to expire last week, causing some telecommunications companies to refuse to cooperate with terrorism-related wiretapping orders.

But hours later, administration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program, according to an official familiar with the issue.

The assertions and revisions marked the latest developments in the battle over the Protect America Act, a temporary surveillance law broadening the government's spying powers that expired last Saturday.

The administration wants the House to approve a Senate bill that would make the law permanent while adding retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies, which face more than 40 lawsuits over alleged invasions of privacy while helping to conduct warrantless wiretapping efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. House Democratic leaders have balked at the immunity provision, and adjourned the chamber last week without renewing the law.

On February 23, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint statement saying that the surveillance program's "private partners" had resumed "cooperating for the time being." The Los Angeles Times reported on February 24:

A day after warning that potentially critical terrorism intelligence was being lost because Congress had not finished work on a controversial espionage law, the U.S. attorney general and the national intelligence director said Saturday that the government was receiving the information -- at least temporarily.

On Friday evening, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell had said in an unusually blunt letter to Congress that the nation "is now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats" because lawmakers had not yet acted on the administration's proposal for the wiretapping law.

But within hours of sending that letter, administration officials told lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees that they had prevailed upon all of the telecommunications companies to continue cooperating with the government's requests for information while negotiations with Congress continue.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
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