Yahoo lawyer admits to lying to Congress - unintentionally, of course

Yahoo lawyer admits to lying to Congress - unintentionally, of course

Summary: Yahoo's general counsel Michael Callahan basically copped to lying to Congress over Yahoo's role in turning over Chinese journalist Shi Tao to the Beijing government, AP reported over the weekend.To put a more wire-service spin on it, Callahan actually said:In a statement released Thursday, Callahan said he learned of the reason for the Chinese government's request months after testifying before lawmakers but failed to notify them.

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Yahoo's general counsel Michael Callahan basically copped to lying to Congress over Yahoo's role in turning over Chinese journalist Shi Tao to the Beijing government, AP reported over the weekend. To put a more wire-service spin on it, Callahan actually said:
In a statement released Thursday, Callahan said he learned of the reason for the Chinese government's request months after testifying before lawmakers but failed to notify them.

"I neglected to directly alert the committee of this new information, and that oversight led to a misunderstanding that I deeply regret and have apologized to the committee for creating," he said.

That sounds convincing, doesn't it? Well, Callahan and Jerry Yang are invited to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Sounds like yahell of a good time for Mike and Jerry.

Oh, and Yahoo has another spin on the fiasco: bad translation.

Yahoo spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the problem stemmed from a bad translation of the 2004 Chinese order given to a company lawyer based in the region. The company didn't get a correct translation until after the 2006 hearing, she said.

Callahan reports directly to President Susan Decker; one wonders if he will suddenly find a pressing need to spend more time with his family.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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14 comments
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  • If the explanation was truthful...

    ...then he wasn't lying. A lie is a deliberate deception, even if technically truthful. If he made an honest mistake, then he discharged his duty to tell the truth by correcting his story as soon as the error became apparent.

    Of course, it's possible that all of this is a lame excuse offered as soon as it became clear that the original story held no water, in which case he is still lying.

    There is no such thing as an unintentional lie.
    John L. Ries
    • truthful?

      Since the explanation defies believability, I call it a lie.
      rkoman9
      • You're probably right

        Personally, I'd be very careful about what information I provided to a Communist dictatorship, but that's not proof that the story is false; after all, there seems to be lots of people willing to disbelieve or minimize allegations of abuse made against the Chinese regime over the past 50+ years.
        John L. Ries
  • Ignorance has never been a defense

    ???I neglected to directly alert the committee??? means he understood directly contradicting ???a misunderstanding???.

    Yahoo spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the problem stemmed from a bad translation of the 2004 Chinese order given to a company lawyer based in the region. The company didn???t get a correct translation until after the 2006 hearing, she said.

    Ignorance has never been a defense for the common man why should it be for Yahoo?
    sheltercrow
    • re

      i think the govt of china must just say to big isp and other service providers this:

      If you do not comply we will ban your websites (block) them entirely from our country and make it a criminal act to access any content on them.

      US Companies say:

      i guess if a few guys get thrown in prison for writing an article thats even mildly critical of their govt..

      OH WELL!!!!
      pcguy777
      • yes

        That seems to be the case.
        rkoman9
  • RE: Yahoo lawyer admits to lying to Congress - unintentionally, of course

    He did nothing of the sort, as is supported by the public record of disclosure.

    Your article simply ratifies the demagoguery of Tom Lantos. Fun to pile-on, I guess, but a disconnect in getting the information occurred, and as the Yahoo! statements available in the more detailed coverage of this story by Wired News show, the unambiguous public record is that Yahoo! disclosed the additional "state secrets" language in multiple forums when it became aware of it.

    http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/11/yahoo-in-china-.html

    Check the publicly available facts before you pile on with transparent link-bait stories. Anything less is simple hackery, particularly where people's integrity and reputations are on the line - including your own.
    ronsf06
    • then explain

      1. Yahoo china knew the doc said 'state secrets'
      2. This was never communicated to Yahoo HQ?
      3. Yahoo HQ didnt think it was important to alert Congress even though it posted the info in various formats?

      Either ONE of these is believable. Together they strain credulity. Sometimes piling on, even by politicians, even against (gasp) an internet company, is appropriate.

      Yahoo was an a minimum naive, but more likely reckless, irresponsible and spineless better describe its attitude towards doing biz in china at the time.

      If any other shoes drop here, look for Callahan to earn a contempt citation.
      rkoman9
      • Even if Y! considered the "state secrets" language...

        ...how do you propose a company make an independent judgment as to:

        a) what is meant by "state secrets": espionage, or dissident opinion? What would you have assumed?
        b) whether or not the subject was guilty or innocent of any (unknown) prospective charges

        Given a company chooses to independently decide both of the above, what is the legal and operational basis for asking local employees to defy a legitimate government order/request for information, knowing that such defiance would put the employees at personal risk of arrest or prosecution.

        This is not a Yahoo! issue, in my view. This is an issue for any company doing business within the legal system of another culture, no matter how odious. Please detail the thought processes you would have employed in coming to another outcome, addressing all of the items above, including putting your own employees potentially in jail.

        Then look up the word "dilemma."
        ronsf06
        • dilemma

          As I said, 'state secrets' is clear. Someone said something the Government didnt want said and it is now preparing to use its well-known powers and willingess to crush that person.

          Assume that the notice never went from China to Sunnyvale. I increasingly think that was the case. And that it what is really troubling. Yahoo China's basic assumption was to comply, no questions asked.

          But it could - and should - have been sent on to Sunnyvale for Yahoo execs to deal with. A high-level conversation with authorities could have ensued. Indeed, the State Dept. could have been brought into the conversation. Yahoo and Yahoo China *could* have, but did not, make acquisition of this particular piece of information rather more trouble than it was worth and the fact that they simply complied, seemingly without a second thought, is where serious questions arise.

          All this occurs before Y!C employees get charged with failing to comply with a subpoena or any such thing. This might have wound up as a dilemma if had been pushed. But this info was provided much too easily, with pretty predictable (in hindsight) results.
          rkoman9
  • RE: Yahoo lawyer admits to lying to Congress - unintentionally, of course

    Yahoo should be ashamed of catering to the wishes of Chineese Government in supporting the regime's inhuman ways. Companies need to stand up for their moral values despite the cost.
    ajit
    ajitorsarah9
    • Does "at any cost" include putting your own employees in jail?

      Explain.
      ronsf06
      • Yahoo doesn't have to do business in China

        They should never have gotten in and even now, they should move their Chinese operations to Taiwan. John Carroll's occasional protestations to the contrary, I know of no rational reason to believe that foreign investment promotes freedom in China or anywhere else. Says me, local business owners are a force for freedom; foreign absentees focused primarily on making money are not.
        John L. Ries
        • Alibaba

          Well Yahoo China is now a division of Alibaba, if I understand correctly, which yahoo owns 40% of. So they have partnered with them and stepped back from direct involvement in china. this was a biz decision, not an ethical decision, of course, but it does provide some cover. a question as to what alibaba would do in similar circumstances, and whether yahoo would lift a finger to urge them to do one thing or another...

          all in all I think the congressional pressure is good, as it provides some pain point for companies just looking at the bottom line and acting selfishly, at a cost of life and liberty to locals.

          Still, it's probably just a lot of hot air, Callahan's story will stand and that will be it. Unless Google winds up on the wrong side of another persecution story.
          rkoman9