BELLSOUTH….BellSouth has demanded that USA Today retract its story saying that the company provided customer phone records to the NSA:

BellSouth insists that your newspaper retract the false and unsubstantiated statements you have made regarding our company.

“We’ve had no contact with the NSA,” says BellSouth’s spokesman, in what I think probably qualifies as the flattest denial to date from any of the telcos.

I have to say that there’s something odd going on here. We’ve talked about all the possible loopholes in the previous denials: maybe BellSouth worked through an intermediary, not the NSA; maybe they think the presidential memorandum signed on May 5 allows them to lie about this; maybe the NSA collected the information itself by tapping BellSouth’s trunk lines.

Maybe. But a demand for a retraction is often a prelude to legal action, and even if it’s not, it does nothing except draw even more attention to what’s going on. BellSouth doesn’t want that, the NSA doesn’t want that, and no judge would give BellSouth the time of day in a libel suit if their argument rested on a technicality. It really doesn’t seem likely that BellSouth would be fighting this so hard if they were lying ? especially knowing that there must be dozens of whistleblowers would can call them on it if they are lying.

And yet, there’s every indication that the NSA does have some kind of massive-scale data mining operation going on. Is it targeted only at AT&T? Or what?