WHY DID VERIZON AND BELLSOUTH ISSUE DENIALS AFTER THE STORY BROKE? Here's another thing about the denials that doesn't quite add up. As we've seen, both Verizon and Bellsouth have more or less denied the USA Today story saying that the NSA has been secretly collecting their phone records. USA Today appears to be sticking to the story, though the paper's statement seems to carefully avoid a total commitment to it, instead saying that the paper's "confident" in its reporting.

But something doesn't quite make sense. Why are Verizon and Bellsouth only denying these allegations after the story broke? The USA Today reporters who did the initial story contacted the companies before publishing it. We know this because it contains statements from both companies, each of which declined to comment.

So why didn't the companies deny the story then? I can already hear your answer: "classification" issues. Classification issues do come into play -- though not how you'd expect. And they don't account for this initial failure to deny the story.

Take a close look at the post-story denials. Verizon said that since "the NSA program" is "highly-classified," the company "cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it." But it also says the assertion that Verizon "entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data" is "false." Those seem to contradict each other, don't they?

Either Verizon has some sort of arrangement with the NSA or it doesn't. Did the company get approached by the NSA and decide not to participate, but wanted to keep what they'd learned secret? They seem to say they weren't approached. The statement says "Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide" the records from "any" of its businesses. So if Verizon doesn't have any relationship to the NSA or the program, there would have been nothing about itself that it would need to keep classified. They would have been perfectly free to deny the story before publication. They could have said, "Verizon has no relationship to such a program, should one exist." But they didn't. Why? More to the point, why isn't Verizon now perfectly free to fully deny its own non-relationship to the program, rather than refuse to confirm or deny any relationship, as it has done?

Verizon has done neither of these. From that I think we can infer that the company does have some sort of relationship to the program. What about Bellsouth?