TPM Reader DV has an interesting and good point in the post below.
For all the shilly-shallying, Verizon does appear to come right out and deny they gave any customer records to the NSA.
So what gives?
I think I've got the answer: they're lying.
No, I don't have any inside information to confirm that claim. But common sense is a marvelous thing.
If you own a business and someone accuses you of an offense that goes to the heart of your responsibility to your customers, do you wait a week to deny it? I doubt that very much.
Now, I don't know that they're lying in a precise, semantic sense. In fact, I suspect they're not. There must be some way in which what they're saying is technically true. But if it were more than technically true, they would have said it and said it more emphatically last week, before a bunch of lawsuits got filed.
USA Today's statement in support of the story is not quite as vehement as I might have expected. But they're clearly sticking by their story.
My hunch is that there's some third party involved here, a subcontractor, a private vendor, perhaps another government agency. And because of that their claims are technically true. Or, maybe, they allowed the NSA to take the data (a variety of technical means suggest themselves) rather than 'providing' it to them. Who knows.
Over at the CBS house blog, Vaughn Ververs has a post up entitled "A Story Slipping Away?" in which he suggests that, with the two denials, "there appears enough here to start wondering about the accuracy of the original USA Today story."
But I think Ververs may be ignoring the clincher nugget of information. Qwest was reportedly asked but refused. Verizon says they were never even asked. And through his lawyer, the then-CEO of Qwest confirms that he'd rebuffed the NSA request. What interest would he have in lying about that?
Unless Qwest is the phone service provider of choice for North American jihadists, I think that means Verizon's credibility is very much in doubt.