Congressional investigators plan to look into whether Yahoo officials misrepresented the Internet company's role in the arrest of a Chinese journalist sentenced to a decade in jail.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos ordered the investigation after a human rights group released a document that it said raised questions about what Yahoo knew when it shared information with authorities about Shi Tao. Beijing officials had sought Shi for sending an e-mail about Chinese media restrictions.
"For a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for," said Lantos, D-Calif. "We expect to learn the truth and to hold the company to account."
Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan told lawmakers at a hearing last year that his company had no information about the nature of the investigation when it provided details about Shi to Chinese officials, Lantos said.
But the Dui Hua Foundation has released a document that it says shows the Beijing State Security Bureau had written Yahoo saying it wanted e-mail content about Shi for an investigation into suspected "illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities."
Lantos said that "covering up such a despicable practice when Congress seeks an explanation is a serious offense."
Jim Cullinan, a Yahoo Inc. spokesman, expressed disappointment that Lantos "is rushing to judgment on this issue, because the facts will support Yahoo's testimony to Congress."
Regarding the document released by Dui Hua, Cullinan said, "There are many and various descriptions of what state secrets could be, including legitimate investigations into things like terrorism."
To do business with China's more than 100 million Internet users, U.S. tech companies must satisfy a government that fiercely polices Internet content. Filters block objectionable foreign Web sites; regulations ban what the Chinese consider subversive and pornographic content and require service providers to enforce censorship.
The document requesting information from Yahoo was translated by Dui Hua; it was posted anonymously last week on the Web site of the U.S.-based Chinese-language Web site Boxun.com, said Joshua Rosenzweig, research manager at Dui Hua.