Burying the retraction

Burying the retraction

A couple of months ago, USA Today made a big splash with a story that the NSA was spying on ordinary Americans by having telephone companies hand over records of phone calls. Every media outlet picked it up and immediately the story became that the Bush administration was spying on American citizens, nevermind that’s not what it was about. Instead, USA Today burned a successful tool for the monitoring and tracking of terrorists.

Now last Friday, the day before a long weekend begins when one traditionally releases bad news in order to have it buried, USA Today issued a retraction. In fact, the phone companies deny having turned records over to the NSA. After tap-dancing through the retraction, we get to the crux of the matter:

Based on its reporting after the May 11 article, USA TODAY has now concluded that while the NSA has built a massive domestic calls record database involving the domestic call records of telecommunications companies, the newspaper cannot confirm that BellSouth or Verizon contracted with the NSA to provide bulk calling records to that database.

And thus the bottom falls out of the story.

(Others have done a thorough job documenting why this was a non-story in the first place. For example, see Michelle Malkin here and here.)

I wonder, when the next big terrorist attack occurs in the US because the media has burned so many successful anti-terrorism programs, who will they blame?

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bk_keywords:National Security Agency, counterterrorism.