The fallout from last week's allegations that several major telephone carriers turned over customer calling records to the National Security Agency continues, with all three companies -- AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon -- denying any wrongdoing. The three carriers have been on the end of a lot of criticism, perhaps looking at all the credit Qwest is getting for not playing ball with the NSA with a bit of envy, and it looks like all they're trying to do is save some face. They've issued vague denials that, for the most part, dance around the heart of the matter. They deny very specific allegations that are tangential to the underlying point, or say they won't comment on "national security matters". They also talk about only acting with "legal authorization", giving no indication of exactly where that authorization came from, like, say a judge, or just from one of the company's lawyers. AT&T also got dealt a setback in the whistleblower case alleging it gave the NSA illegal access to its users' internet traffic when a judge ruled against the company's motion to suppress some evidence, though the case must still survive a government motion to dismiss it for security reasons. What's really happened in both of these cases isn't clear, and it doesn't look like the truth is anywhere close to emerging. But, for the companies involved, the real damage may not come in the form of privacy lawsuits, but in damage to how consumers perceive them -- and some half-baked denials several days late probably won't do much to help.
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