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Press Navigates a Sensitive Role

USA Today publishes a follow-up story to its May report of a secret government program for the creation of a massive data base of American's phone records with the cooperation of several telecommunications companies.

In the story printed Friday, the paper stated that further reporting has left them unable to confirm that Bell South and Verizon cooperated with the government, as the paper reported in May.

The admission comes in a week during which the Bush administration and congressional Republicans have been hammering The New York Times for publishing a story about another secret government program for surveillance of banking records.

The attacks on the Times have questioned the role of the press in a time of war -- and some have suggested the prosecution of journalists under espionage laws.

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David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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