Investigators blast “spineless” Yahoo

Yahoo has endured a bruising encounter with The House Committee on Foreign affairs, which described the internet company as “spineless and irresponsible.”

Investigators blast

The comments come as the Committee investigates allegations that Yahoo knowingly handed personal search information over to the Chinese government, which subsequently led to the arrest of Chinese dissident Shi Tao. The company is arguing that it had no knowledge of what the information would be used for, but the committee is dubious.

“Covering up such a despicable practice when Congress seeks an explanation is a serious offense,” warned Committee chairman Tom Lantos in his opening statements. “For a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for. We expect to learn the truth, and to hold the company to account.”

The first stage of which involved making Yahoo Chief Executive, Jerry Yang, apologise to the mother of Shi Tao, who was present at the hearing.

Prior apology

Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan told the Committee in February 2006 that the company “had no information about the nature of the investigation.” However, Reporters Without Borders shortly revealed that China’s Department of State Security had sent Yahoo a document in 2004 explaining that it wanted information on an internet user suspected of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign institutions.”

Callahan apologised to the Committee last week for not revealing the extent of Yahoo’s knowledge on the case, but blamed miscommunication and bad translation for the lapse.

“Months after I testified before two House sub-committees on Yahoo’s approach to business in China, I realised Yahoo had additional information about a 2004 order issued by the Chinese government seeking information about a Yahoo China user,” Callahan admitted in a statement.

“I neglected to directly alert the Committee of this new information and that oversight led to a misunderstanding that I deeply regret and have apologised to the Committee for creating,” he said.

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