Phone Numbers? What Phone Numbers?

It’s interesting that we all tend to assume that anonymous leaks are true. Everyone’s experience is that when people are willing to step forward and take responsibility for a factual claim, it is more likely to be true than an anonymous rumor. But when the anonymous rumor appears in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or, as in this case, USA Today, we all put our experience aside and assume the truth of the leak.

I’ve noted this paradox before; it was brought to mind again by reports that both Bell South and Verizon have denied the report that they supplied the National Security Agency with records of customers’ phone calls. Here is the story on Verizon:

New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. Tuesday denied it provided the National Security Agency with data from its customers’ domestic telephone calls.

But the telecommunications company said it “will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship” to the NSA program.

“That said, media reports made claims about Verizon that are simply false,” the company said. “One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls. This is false.”

I have no idea what’s going on here, but it’s highly unlikely that Verizon’s categorical denial is false. So it looks like a valuable reminder that 1) just because something is illegally leaked doesn’t mean it’s true, and 2) it’s hard to draw conclusions about issues like the NSA anti-terror programs unless you’re sure what the facts are.

Via Power Line News.

SCOTT adds: Don’t miss Tony Snow’s close encounter of the Helen Thomas kind on this subject over at Hot Air.


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