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Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...


Leslie Cauley, the USA Today reporter who broke the news that AT&T, Verizon, and Bellsouth were providing massive amounts of call data to the National Security Agency, may have been using the Mary Mapes/Dan Rather playbook in compiling her story. Rich Noye at NewsBusters details the similarities.

First, she's donated the maximum amount legally allowed ($2,000) to Dick Gephardt's campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the 2004 election cycle.

Second, she's on TV crowing about the her confidential, unnamed sources.

And finally, the USAToday is pushing the "they didn't object" angle as a confirmation of their story. We all remember how well that worked out for CBS's John Roberts. Here's how the editors at USAToday phrased it, "On the night before the story was published, the newspaper described the story in detail to BellSouth, and the company did not challenge the newspaper's account."

We'll that settles it; it must be true.

The only thing missing is a document like this...



Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...:

» The American Mind linked with USA Today Reporter Exposed

» Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with BellSouth requests retraction

Comments (18)

Kevin,Based on all... (Below threshold)
Bill K:


Based on all the reaction from DC (Congress, the administration, etc) do you really think this program is not up and running?

Kevin - you forgot to add t... (Below threshold)

Kevin - you forgot to add that they are both blondes therefore the USA Today story must be bogus.

Bill - AT&T is in court fighting to not turn over documents. What does that tell you?

Bill:First, I don'... (Below threshold)


First, I don't know whether it's up and running or not, but it sounds like it could be legal.

That aside, I think the point of Kevin's post is that these two people (Mapes and Cauley), whether or not they had an axe to grind, published stories with questionable sources and slim to no research done to support their information which came from a single, anonymous source. That a good portion of the country assumed it to be a fact carved in stone after a single anonymous said so is a little disturbing.

I've been having the argument with a buddy of mine as to whether or not the telcos had enough time to confirm/deny the story. While Kevin's quote makes me believe so, in Cauley's defense I think the line before that in her story mentioned something about first contacting them 5 weeks prior. However, how much information she gave them about the story is unknown.

Anyways, it seems that Kevin's point is still valid; a reporter published a story that in effect libeled three telcos, according to their statements. That's a problem, and it's an example of the media's willingness to jump on a story without properly fact checking and researching it.


trb, as the movie saying go... (Below threshold)

trb, as the movie saying goes, "you complete me." I have no special knowledge as to how much of her reporting is actually true, but the parallels with the Mapes case were startling.

The reporter could be a due... (Below threshold)

The reporter could be a dues paying member of the communist party and still be reporting the facts correctly if she can substantiate the accusation.
A lack of immediate denial however is not substantiation of an assertion.

>Bill - AT&T is in court fi... (Below threshold)

>Bill - AT&T is in court fighting to not turn over documents. What does that tell you?

It tells me you are a moron who can't read. They are 2 different cases you nitwit.

Different cases? What "case... (Below threshold)

Different cases? What "case" are you referencing P2? I'm referencing the case ins San Francisco, which is the same issue referenced in the USA TODAY article - specifically that the phone companies are turning over information and providing access to our internet and phone traffic and records.

This is a lot more serious, and a lot deeper, than just phone company records - but (emphasis added for the thinking impaired) the issue is access to phone company traffic and records by the NSA.

AT&T is busy in court in San Francisco fighting to supress the release of information that outlines the extent to which AT&T has provided access to our phone and internet traffic.

A quote from the article you linked:

The documents appear to show AT&T tapping into 16 fiber-optic cables connecting the company's WorldNet internet backbone to other internet service providers, and routing the traffic to a sophisticated data-analysis system made by California-based Narus.

In a written statement accompanying the pages, whistle-blower Klein says the Narus system was installed in a secret locked room inside an AT&T switching center in San Francisco that was off-limits to anyone without NSA clearance.

Gee P2, you're almost as dense as that Paul guy....

All I can say is that the s... (Below threshold)

All I can say is that the shit has hit the fan and the MSM has another black eye. You would have thought that they learned their lesson after the Rathergate fiasco. They are so arrogant that when they get their hands caught in the cookie jar, they blame the people that caught them red handed. Typical liberal bullshit.

I am keeping a close eye on this one too. So far, the senario is playing out just like the Rathergate thing, only with more serious implications. It also looks like Qwest is going to come out of the this smelling like a rose in a pile of pig shit. I am also wondering how many people are going to stop buying the rag and go somewhere else to get the news.

From the original story tha... (Below threshold)

From the original story that Leslie Cauley published in USA Today - it was apparent to me that she didn't know her ass from her face.

That's not unusual in today's media of course, but it's a technical subject, and there were little or no details regarding what the NSA doing - and there still aren't as far as I'm concerned.

It's pretty clear that her confidential, unnamed sources don't know much either.

Let's face it, the NSA probably is acquiring this information - even if the big, bad telcos aren't handing over to them.

It's a romantic story, but it's really just FUD about how the Bush Administration is trying to kick in our front doors with no tangible details and up to this point no qualified sources.

Now, the fact that the history of tracking these signaling routes is really nothing new, it really surprises me that a lot of people are assuming that their phone records are so private.

trb you are a fucking idiot... (Below threshold)

trb you are a fucking idiot,

if the allegations against the telcos wasn't an absolute factual accusation, they would have denied it vehemently and adamantly to the media and whoever else questioned their activities.

they did not do so. they said it was againg the law to confirm or deny their activities... this claim could only be substantiated if they were given the power to deny what they have done in the name of intelligence prodecures. they have lied in this regard to the public, and you are an imbecile for backing their claims.

Hmmmm.if ... (Below threshold)


if the allegations against the telcos wasn't an absolute factual accusation, they would have denied it vehemently and adamantly to the media and whoever else questioned their activities.

You're a complete asshat you know that?

These corporations are huge and with thousands of employees. If they reflexively denied something and it turned out to be true, then they'd be in serious trouble over that. So these corporations, like any large corporation, took the time to really find out if anything like this happened.

Now why couldn't they just look at a computer screen? Because sometimes low and mid-level managers do stupid screwy things without telling anyone else. If you knew how big corporations worked, let alone a telco, then you'd know this.

You utterly ignorant dumbass.

BellSouth has vigorously de... (Below threshold)

BellSouth has vigorously denied the story.

With large corporations, response to such media reports always has to be filtered through their legal departments, so it doesn't come immediately.

I spent over 20 years full-time in the newspaper business, plus another dozen years as a part-time consultant and columnist. It is NOT considered a confirmation of a report if a subject "fails to deny it." That is true of any story and any source.

But when dealing with corporations, throwing out an accusation a couple hours before deadline is virtually certain to elicit NO response for publication. If a corporate PR guy gets a question entailing some major accusation he knows nothing about, he won't say a word until he has contacted Legal and they have researched the thing until they are sure of a proper response - which may not be intended to enlighten, of course, but you can't expect them to respond at all in a short time frame.

damnthis:> if the ... (Below threshold)


> if the allegations against the telcos wasn't an
> absolute factual accusation, they would have
> denied it vehemently and adamantly to the media
> and whoever else questioned their activities.

To add on to what ed said, way too many people feel the same way you do. When Cauley called up the telcos, I doubt she spoke with someone "in the know"; most likely she spoke with someone in the public relations wing of the telco. Not only are these companies huge, as ed pointed out, but I doubt that this information moved at the speed of light. Cauley doesn't mention what time she called; if she called after hours, people may have gone home. Either way, I'm actually amazed that they could issue a denial in four days time.

> they have lied in this regard to the public,
> and you are an imbecile for backing their
> claims.

Idiot/imbecile comments aside, whether or not I believe the telcos statement isn't the case; this story should never have been written or, at least, not written in this manner. The use of anonymous sources is a necessity in journalism, but as we've seen in the Rather/Mapes case, without further research the news organization winds up libeling a person/company on the words of a single individual. That's hazardous to the credibility of the news industry as a whole, and it's shocking that so many people are willing to take a source's "word for it" seemingly because it reinforces their world view.


Being part of a big bureauc... (Below threshold)

Being part of a big bureaucratic company, I say it's completely possible a company would need to take days of internal checks to be sure such information wasn't shared.

If you think lack of a prompt denial from an large company is proof of anything but their own bureaucratic ways, you'd be mistaken.

Amen jpm, but add that a fe... (Below threshold)

Amen jpm, but add that a few hours (at $500/hr per partner) of legal scrutiny also preceded the denials.

Hmmm.What kind of ... (Below threshold)


What kind of journalistic process is it to claim a story is correct if the victim doesn't scream loud enough?

Would this standard apply to a mugging?

"Well your honor he didn't put up much of a fuss when I took his watch and wallet. I figured it was ok."

What silliness.

The appalling thing isn't t... (Below threshold)
john s:

The appalling thing isn't that the USA Today story is bogus (and possibly a plant). It's the fact that Congressional Democrats, who have been briefed on NSA data mining activities for the past 15 years (these are in fact Clinton programs) and know that the USA Today story is bullshit, still took the opportunity to spend a media cycle beating on the Bush administration. Shameless politicking on a story they knew is false.

Dan Rather would be rolling... (Below threshold)
Al Shopton:

Dan Rather would be rolling over in his grave if He had witnessed this kind of journalism?






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