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Yahoo's Michael Callahan and Jerry Yang: Sullen, but not exactly sorry.
Yahoo's Michael Callahan and Jerry Yang: Sullen, but not exactly sorry. (By Alex Wong -- Getty Images)

Furious, Lantos interrupted. "These were demands by a police state to make an American company a co-conspirator in having a freedom-loving Chinese journalist put in prison," he said. "Will you continue to use the phrase 'lawful orders,' or will you just be satisfied saying 'orders'?"

"I can refer to it that way if you like," came Callahan's insolent reply. Pressed further, he added: "It's my understanding that Chinese laws are lawful."

Yang fared no better on his corporate citizenship test. "Yahoo collaborated with the Chinese police apparatus in the imprisonment of a freedom-loving Chinese journalist. Do you agree?" Lantos asked.

"Mr. Chairman, I understand where you're coming from," the laconic billionaire answered.

Lantos was just beginning. "Mr. Yang, why is it that after craven cooperation with the Chinese state security apparatus, the provision of false information to Congress, the failure to correct the record . . . the only person punished is an innocent journalist?"

"At the end of the day I feel that everybody was doing the best they can," Yang answered quietly.

Lantos, usually a mild questioner, was not finished. "You still have done nothing," he said, "to help the family whose breadwinner your behavior put in prison. . . . Can you explain why?"

Yang adjusted his glasses. "I think that Yahoo could do more," he allowed.

"It couldn't do less," Lantos pointed out.

Other members of the panel joined in the abuse. Smith asserted that Yahoo had also helped the Chinese authorities unmask dissident Wang Xiaoning, now a suspected victim of torture. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) hectored the two about their failure to punish anybody for Callahan's false testimony ("The individuals involved have apologized," explained Callahan). And Rohrabacher tried unsuccessfully to secure a promise that Yahoo would not give in to similar demands by totalitarian regimes in the future. ("It's complicated," Callahan explained.)

As the hearing stretched on, Yang and Callahan busied themselves with their drinking glasses, consuming almost an entire pitcher of water between them. Finally, after three hours, they made a grudging offer to consider payments to the families of Shi and others Yahoo has turned over to the Chinese authorities -- because of "its importance to the committee."

Lantos erupted anew. "Look into your own soul and see the damage you have done to an innocent human being and to his family," the chairman said. "It will make no difference to the committee what you do, but it will make you better human beings if you recognize your own responsibility for the enormous damage your policies have created."

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