Michael Callahan, Yahoo's chief legal counsel, on Nov. 1 said he did not deliberately mislead a U.S. House committee last year about the company's role in providing the Chinese government with information that sent journalist Shi Tao to jail for a decade.
Callahan's statement comes just days before the Nov. 6 House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing looking into the veracity of Yahoo's 2006 testimony. Callahan and Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang have been called to testify.
In October, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) accused Callahan of providing lawmakers with "false testimony" when he told a congressional hearing that Yahoo "had no information about the nature of the investigation."
Lantos said he later learned Yahoo knew more about the investigation than it originally admitted. According to Lantos, the Dui Hua Foundation in July released documents showing that police had written Yahoo specifying that evidence was being about Shi in a case of suspected "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities," a charge frequently invoked against political dissidents in China.
Click here to read more about a call for Yahoo's CEO to testify about the release of user data to the Chinese government.
"Months after I testified before two House subcommittees … I realized Yahoo had additional information," Callahan said in a Nov. 1 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 apologized to the committee for creating."
A spokesperson for Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., told eWEEK that the problem stemmed from a bad translation of the 2004 Chinese order given to a company lawyer based in the region. The Yahoo company lawyer didn't get a correct translation until after the 2006 hearing. Callahan, the spokesperson said, did not become aware of the complete translation until eight months after his testimony.
"I, along with other Yahoo officials, have consulted with Committee staff several times about this misunderstanding and they agreed my 2006 testimony was truthful," Callahan said. "As demonstrated by Yahoo's public and private communications about the new information once it was known, it was never my intention to cause confusion or keep this new information from Congress."
A reporter and editor for a Chinese newspaper, Shi was arrested in his home after posting material under a pseudonym about a government crackdown on media and democracy activists on an overseas Web site, Democracy Forum. The Chinese government found Shi in Beijing after Yahoo provided information about his e-mail account, including his IP address, log-on history and the contents of his e-mail.
Shi has appealed the verdict to the Hunan Higher People's Court, arguing that he was unaware that the information was classified and that police used improper procedures in the investigation and arrest. Shi is also seeking damages in U.S. federal court against Yahoo and its Hong Kong-based subsidiary.
"I have met with several members of the Committee to explain this issue and look forward to clearing up this confusion with the full Committee at the hearing," Callahan said.
In calling for a new hearing into the matter, Lantos said in October, "We want to clarify [Callahan's testimony] and to hold the company to account for its actions both before and after its testimony proved untrue."
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