Bell South Denies It. Who’s Standing Behind It?

Bell South has written to USA Today, denying that it supplied customers’ phone records to NSA and demanding that the newspaper retract its story to that effect:

“We are insisting that the paper retract the false and unsubstantiatied statements that have been made regarding our company,” [Bell South spokesman Jeff] Battcher said. “They have offered no proof of either of those (contract and call record submission) claims.

“We have no contract with the NSA, never had a contract with the NSA, and have never provided the NSA with any information, ever,” Battcher concluded.

That’s awfully categorical, and, as I’ve said before, it’s hard to believe Bell South is making it up. Which has caused some to wonder about the USA Today reporter who broke the story, Leslie Cauley. Editor & Publisher has a rather dry bio, noting that she is a business reporter for the newspaper specializing in the telecom industry, and has written two telecom-related books.

For the good stuff, you have to go to NewsBusters, which notes that Ms. Cauley is a Democratic donor who co-authored one of her books with Leo Hindery, former chairman of Global Crossing, whom we talked about here. Hindery is a former candidate for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Hindery and Cauley developed what was termed a “close relationship” during their literary collaboration, but the relationship apparently went bad. Broadcasting & Cable describes Cauley’s references to Hindery in her second book, published two years later and titled End of the Line:

While Somers and Armstrong receive harsh treatment in Cauley’s book, they don’t get it as badly as her former collaborator, Hindery.

She calls him a “carnival barker,” “a junk-food addict with a waistline to match” and, in a particularly cheap shot, a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeover just screaming to happen.”

Hmm. Here’s the lesson Cauley draws from her NSA story:

This further validates the use of confidential, unnamed sources. They have a real value in our business.

They certainly do. They allow government employees to leak illegally without getting caught, and they allow reporters to print stories that no one is willing to stand behind.

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