USA Today: Ahem, Uh, Nevermind Some of that Stuff

Remember this story from May 11, 2006?

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

Well, USA Today released this little tidbit just now.

On May 11, USA TODAY reported that the National Security Agency, with the cooperation of several of America’s leading telecommunications companies, had compiled a database of domestic phone call records in an effort to monitor terrorist activity.

Several days later, BellSouth and Verizon specifically denied that they were among the companies that had contracted with the NSA to provide bulk calling records.

The denial was unexpected.

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.

So now, what can we conclude from this? We now know that the “massive domestic calls record database” isn’t so massive. In fact, this correction from USA Today calls into question their entire investigation into the program.

Yet, the damage has already been done. Members of Congress, others in the Democratic Party, and the Left dutifully parrotted the shocking magnitude of the USA Today story on Sunday morning talk shows, from the well of the Senate, in editorial pages and throughout the blogosphere. Today’s muted correction/denial does little to change that fact.

What’s being done to prevent this kind of inaccurate reporting from being transfered as fact in the future? Nothing, I suspect, and that’s outrageous. The solution seems to fall at the feet of those on the right side of the blogosphere. Our responsibility is to immediately call into question the obvious anti-American, anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-Conservative investigative reporting from the MSM. If what’s being reported is varifiably true, we should acknowledge it and push those involved to right their course. But, if reports are based on dubious facts, and if the news gathering process has been compromised by a political agenda, the reporters and the upper brass need to be called on the carpet (ala the New York Times today). The blogosphere did that a little bit in the immediate aftermath of the NSA phone records story, but we did so defensively. That’s a natural first instinct. An offensive approach was needed then, and it’s needed the next time this kind of thing happens. We can do better. 

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