Yahoo Takes a Congressional Mugging

Yahoo officials took a verbal beating Nov. 6 as a House of Representatives panel probed the company’s role in the jailing of a Chinese dissident and the subsequent “false testimony” Yahoo provided Congress about the incident.

CEO Jerry Yang and Michael Callahan, Yahoo’s general counsel, were the only witnesses at the testy three-plus hour hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“If you think our witnesses today are uncomfortable sitting in this climate-controlled room and accounting for their company’s spineless and irresponsible actions, imagine how life is for Shi Tao, spending 10 long years in a Chinese dungeon for exchanging information publicly—exactly what Yahoo claims to support in places like China,” committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D.-Calif., said

A reporter and editor for a Chinese newspaper, Shi was arrested in his home after posting material on a overseas Web site under a pseudonym about a Beijing crackdown on media and democracy activists. 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. He was sentenced to prison in 2004.

To read more about Yahoo’s denial that it purposefully mislead the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, click here.

At a February 2006 Congressional hearing, Callahan told the panel he “had no information about the nature of the investigation.” Lantos said he later learned Yahoo knew more about the investigation than it originally admitted. Earlier this month, Callahan admitted he subsequently found information that showed Yahoo was aware that Shi was suspected of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities,” a charge frequently invoked against political dissidents in China.

In a Nov. 1 statement to the panel, Callahan apologized for not getting back to the committee to correct his testimony.

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