Secrets or lies, and maybe both

Bush authorizes Negroponte to free companies from record-keeping requirements in national security matters.

Published May 17, 2006 3:47PM (EDT)

Cruising through the White House Web site earlier this month, we noticed a rather cryptic Memorandum for the Director National Intelligence. In the memorandum, dated May 5, 2006, and posted a few days later, George W. Bush delegated to John Negroponte "the function of the president under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))."

We didn't know what it meant, and -- the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 not being our first choice for leisure reading -- we didn't take the time to find out. But Think Progress is connecting the dots this morning, and the picture that's emerging is a pretty interesting one.

The Securities Exchange Act requires companies to "make and keep books, records, and accounts" which "accurately and fairly" reflect their transactions. But the Securities Exchange Act provision Bush cited in his memorandum waives that requirement for transactions involving national security in which a company has cooperated with the federal government after receiving a "directive" from a government official who has been authorized by the president to give one. In issuing his memorandum, Bush gave Negroponte the authority to issue such a directive.

What does that mean? It means that Negroponte now has the authority to free companies that cooperate with him from the obligation to record -- and potentially reveal -- the activities in which they're engaged. And what does that mean? Negroponte now apparently has the power to allow the telephone companies that have been turning over telephone records to the NSA to keep their "transactions" -- the payments they're getting from the NSA -- off of their books.

And why does that matter? We don't know for sure; remember, the whole point here is that we're not supposed to know. But as Think Progress asks, isn't it an interesting coincidence that Verizon and BellSouth are now denying USA Today's report that they handed over customers' telephone records to the NSA?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Espionage George W. Bush War Room