Thursday, November 08, 2007

Congress grills Yahoo over Chinese subpoenas

Declan McCullagh live-blogged the U.S. House of Representatives hearing on "Yahoo Inc.'s Provision of False Information to Congress," which was about an incident in which Yahoo responded to a subpoena from the Chinese government for the identity of a subscriber who turned out to be a Chinese reporter, who was convicted of leaking "state secrets."

Anybody note anything ironic or hypocritical in these excerpts?
10:20 a.m. ET:
Apparently, the Beijing State Security Bureau provided a document to Yahoo--similar to the FBI's national security letters--to Yahoo China on April 24, 2004. It invoked the term "state secrets" when demanding information about Shi Tao. Callahan never saw the document, which was written in Chinese, before testifying last year. Lantos says Callahan should have demanded a translation before his testimony, and Yahoo should have known that any request invoking state secrets is suspect because "state secrets is a trick phrase used to fabricate phony but devastating (charges against an) innocent person who shares our values in an open and free society."

10:30 a.m. ET
Now the two Yahoo execs are being asked to apologize to Shi Tao's mother, who is sitting in a front row of the hearing room. Lantos: "I would urge you to beg the forgiveness of the mother whose son is languishing behind bars thanks to Yahoo's actions." I wonder if Lantos and other Patriot Act supporters will apologize to Americans like Brandon Mayfield (falsely jailed under the Patriot Act) or Sami al-Hussayen (a Webmaster who provided hyperlinks to Muslim sites and was prosecuted under the Patriot Act).

10:45 a.m. ET
Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican who was chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel last year, is now speaking. He's saying that "Yahoo knew the police requests had to do with 'state secrets.'" That may not be as descriptive as he (and the other panelists) seem to think. It seems to me that it's a catchall term that's probably invoked regularly by China's security apparatchiks. It's not like the police requests said "give us this information so we can put an innocent journalist in jail."

12:20 p.m. ET
Now it's Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican: "Were any of them fired?" He's referring to Yahoo employees. Rohrabacher again: "Are you going to comply with requests from authoritarian governments in the future?" Callahan replies: "We are looking at ways to operationally and legally structure the entity... so we would not have to do that."

12:52 p.m. ET
Lantos again, to Yahoo's Callahan, excerpted: "Morally you are pygmies... An appallingly disappointing performance. I think we cannot begin to tell you how disappointing Mr. Yang's and your performance was... attempt to obfuscate and divert... outrageous behavior."
Why don't we see some of this moral outrage from Congress directed at the executive branch of the United States, at a time when 64% of the country disapproves and 50% of the country strongly disapproves of the president's performance (beating Nixon's worst performance)?

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