February 15, 2006 1:55 PM PST

Yahoo on NSA surveillance: No comment

Under cross-examination during a congressional hearing, Yahoo's top lawyer refused on Wednesday to say whether the company opens its records for government surveillance without a court order.

Michael Callahan, Yahoo's senior vice president and general counsel, declined five times to answer that question from Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat who was probing whether the Internet company had cooperated with the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance efforts.

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan

"It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment," said Callahan, who was testifying under oath. He added that Yahoo would "only turn over information if it's required by law."

But Callahan refused to say whether a demand from the NSA--not backed by a court order--qualifies as required by law.

No law or regulation prohibits Yahoo from answering the question. In a survey published last week by CNET News.com, companies as varied as BellSouth, Comcast, EarthLink and T-Mobile answered in the negative. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, has posed similar questions to those companies, and AT&T has been sued for allegedly turning information over to the NSA in violation of privacy laws.

Sherman, who represents the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, is a Harvard Law graduate who was known as a stickler for detail while a lawyer in private practice. He's been critical of the NSA surveillance program, and said last week that President Bush's recent claims about terrorists planning to attack a Los Angeles skyscraper were a political stunt.

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Video: Can the NSA look at your e-mail?
During a House hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., asks Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan if the NSA can access the e-mail of private American citizens.

Below is a transcript, edited for clarity, of Wednesday's exchange that took place during a House of Representatives hearing about China and the Internet.


Rep. Brad Sherman: Let's say you get a call from the NSA saying they want you to give them a copy of all my e-mails. Can I rely on your privacy policy that you're not going to give those e-mails to the NSA unless you get a court order?

Yahoo General Counsel Michael Callahan: We would only disclose information in compliance with law and our privacy policy.

Sherman: Does that include a court order or letter from the NSA?

Callahan: I wouldn't be able to comment.

Sherman: The attorney general says the executive branch, without any OK from either of the other two branches, has the right to read everything you have in your files about me. You might very well agree?

Callahan: It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment.

Sherman: How can I be a Yahoo user?... If you tell me you'll decide later if a sheriff in some obscure county (that I've never visited can obtain access to my files based on a simple request?)

Callahan: We only turn over information if it's required by law.

Sherman: An investigation from some county that I've never been to?

Callahan: If we were served with proper legal process, we would have to give it.

Sherman: Sir, you're assuming the answer to the question and pretending that's an answer. I'm asking you, as the chief lawyer from Yahoo, is e-mail from some sheriff...is that a requirement that you would adhere to or would you fight it in court?

Callahan: That is not something we would provide.

Sherman: How about if it came from the NSA?

Callahan: (I can't comment on that.)

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10 comments

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There is only one real solution: an open & de-centralized model
Only way to avoid the real threat of the US government, or any one government, or group of companies, controlling what people say, read, search for, etc. is to oppose and break the Google or Yahoo model of the search engine which
is to run a closed & centralized search engine.
Because it is only inevitable that with all this power centralized in the hand of 2 US companies that this power will be abused. I mean for God sake why should the search result of people searching for something in Germany, or in Russia, etc. be provided by 2 US companies in Silicon Valley?
That is non-sense!
Who knows more about what is happening in Germany, Russia, India, etc.?
Companies/people in the respective countries or 2 big US media companies in Silicon Valley?

That is why I, and more and more people on the know, have began to evangelize this new
search engine called AnooX, because it is Open & De-centralized.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.anoox.com/sep-overview.jsp" target="_newWindow">http://www.anoox.com/sep-overview.jsp</a>

For many reason this is a better model, because it is the Internet model.
It is not perfect, but it sure beats the Google or Yahoo centralized models.
Posted by Manfred Levy (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I find it absolutely amazing
that we have gotten so far off topic, simply because the media (news.com included) has FABRICATED and/or PERPETUATED a story where there is none.

The FACT (that even news.com doesn't want to admit) is that the NSA has been doing its job all along, and this "warrantless domestic spying program" is a complete farce. The NSA is doing nothing of the sort. It is simply listening in on foreign calls (to known terrorists, mind you), which the NSA has done all along. The twist since September 11th is that we are now listening to calls to the same terrorists on foreign soil that originate in the US.

The media is implying that the NSA is listening to phone calls placed from within the US to other destinations within the US, which is simply untrue, and which would by all admissions require warrants.

And we all just happily go along with it.

FYI, If the Congressman was sending e-mails to Al-Qaeda, not only should the NSA be reading them, but believe me, they certainly don't need Yahoo's help or cooperation to do so.
Posted by schlice (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Find YOU Amazing
... since you cannot even acknowledge basic facts ON TOPIC. The government has FABRICATED a story: that they dont need to seek warrants. They do. They have PERPETUATED A LIE: that bush is above the law. He's not.

If the NSA is "simply listening in on foreign calls" as it "has done all along" then why does it not bother to FOLLOW THE LAW and get the required warrants to do it, as it had done for 30 some years? Why stop now? Why can't the Attorney General STATE WHAT YOU CLAIM, and assure us that domestic-to-domestic calls aren't being tapped? Because he CAN'T.

And here is the kicker, a bonus question for you: FYI, if the President's father, ex-President of the United States, ex-Head of CIA is openly conducting ARMS BUSINESS with Osama's IMMEDIATE FAMILY, are HIS PHONES BEING TAPPED?

Your hypocrisy is foul...
Posted by Buck4Free (2 comments )
Link Flag
One reason
The reason for no comment, resides in the california computer and privacy acts along with other states with similiar statuates!

No corporation spokesperson, willingly wishes to admit total failure to comply with all the various legal acts at both state and federal level, for when it comes to trial by law suit you lose every time!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
no different than China
How is NSA any different than China in this instance? Moral of the story, do not use yahoo or google or msn mail. Especially Google's new corporate mail system. Wait thill there is several years of stuff in GMAIL. Imagine the number of legally requested fishing expeditions. Everybody from divorce lawyers, tax men, RIAA. MPAA etc etc
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is why a Municipal WiFi solution by Google is not a good idea as well.
As many know, San Francisco is looking at Municipal WiFi and Google appears to be in the top. Yet Cnet which is based in San Francisco has not convered the privacy concerns raised by ACLU, EFF and Epic West on this matter. The China hearings and Yahoo's poor answers in this article continue to demand better coverage on this topic.

Notably, San Francisco has a Patriot Act Watch law that throws a lot of red tape at requests by any agency for information including for example library records.

Combined brief ACLU, EFF.org and Epic.org
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004078.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004078.php</a>

SF Watch Law Re Patriot Act
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/about/watch_law_program.pdf" target="_newWindow">http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/about/watch_law_program.pdf</a>


for more information:
my blog at:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webnetic.net" target="_newWindow">http://www.webnetic.net</a>
Posted by kimocrossman (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
actually that's incorrect
We did cover the privacy concerns about Google/SF/WiFi. My colleague Elinor wrote the story, titled: "Google in San Francisco: 'Wireless overlord'?"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Google+in+San+Francisco+Wireless+overlord/2100-1039_3-5886968.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Google+in+San+Francisco+Wireless+overlord/2100-1039_3-5886968.html</a>
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
Link Flag
I*ll Take That As A Yes.
Sherman: The attorney general says the executive branch, without any OK from either of the other two branches, has the right to read everything you have in your files about me. You might very well agree?

Callahan: It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment.

JP B-) : I*ll take that as a lawyer*s Yes.
Posted by Catgic (106 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Michael Callahan seems to be cooperating with
people who make death threats to me and others on both the Yahoo NFI 'message board' and the 'OSTK'message board and then 'deleting' my accounts at their whim ? Once on a Sunday when I thought Yahoo employees would be taking a break I made a comment on Patrick Byrne's OSTK BOARD SIMPLY THAT THE POSTER PROMOTING HIS 'NAKED SHORTING' PENNY STOCK SCAM TO PRETEND OSTK WAS BEING 'NAKED SHORTED' BY A 'SITH LORD' USED 'TEH' FOR 'THE' JUST AS THE STOCK TOUT DAVE PATCH OF 'INVESTIGATETHESEC' DOES.MY POSTS AND EMAIL ACCOUNT WAS COMPLETELY REMOVED WITHIN MINUTES !!!

I suspect not only is Yahoo in bed with NSA BUT WITH STOCK FRAUD TOUTS AS WELL WHO MAY BE LIKE JAMES DALE DAVIDSON,FAR RIGHT FOUNDER OF THE NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION AND AGORA INC.,VERY BELTWAY CONNECTED.

The scum who run the Yahoo business or stock message boards have aided and abetted rather than censored or deleted(except to remove incriminating evidence posts) their fraudulent stock tout accounts and allow Patrick Byrne and his death threat friend 'Bob O'Brien' full sway to lie and promote fraud and threaten.

Who are these people Mr.Michael Callahan who you allow to threaten and intimidate us and you protect them ? Has a Beltway mafia and Patrick Byrne who you allow to link to nfi-info.net and ncans.net day after fraudulent day for how many years NOW and Mary Helburn president of the fraud so hard to delete and OR bring to justice for fraud and threats ?

I have already posted the death threats and such you allow and pointed out the 'NAANSS' or National Association Against Naked Short Selling'fraud was a James Dale Davidson-Agora Inc AND THUS BELTWAY fraud and David Patch's
'investigatethesec' and that 'NCANS' or National Coalition Against Naked Short Selling' was either plagiarised from that Beltway stock fraud OR THE SAME STOCK FRAUDS WERE INVOLVED.Why can't you end their reign of stock fraud and 'naked short' this and that scam OR CLOSE DOWN YOUR MESSAGE FRAUD BOARDS ? HUH ?

Why do you delete my account for warning and coddle and protect them who have defrauded many.Huh ? Do a google search 'yahoo mafia death threats tony guatemala cabby machete' and then ask those at Yahoo whether they are bribed to allow this kind of stuff or are you ? DO YOU CONDONE THESE TYPES OF THREATS ?

Is there a Beltway connection ? Patrick Byrne and his daddy Jack sure paid off the Republican party to the tune of over $1,000,000 and 'Bob O'Brien in one of his many aliases once told me he had some in at Yahoo.You might also do a google search of 'phones records james davidson eisinger boat subs' or to make it easy on you just follow this link that I posted from Yahoo
just in case you all at Yahoo might delete it to destroy evidence as you did.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.offshorebusiness.com/message_board_detail.asp?id=15627&#38;page=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.offshorebusiness.com/message_board_detail.asp?id=15627&#38;page=1</a>


Bob O'Brien posting as ncans_d3 on Yahoo at the time utters 'James Davidson' as a contributer a major contributer to the ncans and Yahoo message boards AND NCAN.NET(THAT YOU HAVE ALLOWED TO BE SPAMMED TO DEFRAUD YOUR OWN MESSAGE BOARD READERS) 'naked short ' fraud you allow them to run on your boards.Anyone who believes them should have the right to sue you and Yahoo for all you're worth which isn't much in ethical terms at least.You allow fraud against your own customers and you continue to aid and abet them.Why ? !

And why have you deleted accounts and stolen private email from those holding email accounts as you have done with me without so much as a clear your mail and get out warning ? From my stand point you and yours are no better than one who would open someone's mail box out so much as a howdy doo and steal their personal mail.Oh yeah you say you burned it and didn't read it or give it to the Chinese government.Thanks

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.offshorebusiness.com/message_board_detail.asp?id=15627&#38;page=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.offshorebusiness.com/message_board_detail.asp?id=15627&#38;page=1</a>
Posted by (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Beware: Tony Ryals is a raving lunatic.
Be aware that this Tony Ryals fellow is a complete babbling lunatic. The vast majority of what he is saying is grossly inaccurate and completely fabricated. His posts consist of tidbits of news interpreted in a completely inaccurate and grossly unfair way. If you believe anything this guy says I have some swamp land in Florida I want to sell you.

Anyone who thinks that the US government, Yahoo, the CIA and anyone who finds his trolling irritating are all banded together in a massive conspiracy to defraud him of small amounts of money is obviously totally nuts.

Here are some actual quotes from his insane posts:

"I suspect not only is Yahoo in bed with NSA BUT WITH STOCK FRAUD TOUTS AS WELL" - yea, Yahoo really needs to risk their highly promising business as a multi billion dollar internet portal to defraud you

Here's a gem:
"Do a google search 'yahoo mafia death threats tony guatemala cabby machete'" too much free time?? "and then ask those at Yahoo whether they are bribed to allow this kind of stuff or are you ? DO YOU CONDONE THESE TYPES OF THREATS ?" - just forward you inquiry to the Bribes and Tony Ryals Post Editing division of Yahoo.

To find out the truth about LOM talk to some of their clients or look at their actual track record. You will learn that they are a highly ethical and compliant organization that just happens to be offshore from the United States and is thus subjected to the usual barrage of scrutiny from authorities.
Posted by ethical_offshore_investor (1 comment )
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