Protecting Anonymous Sources

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Another quick road trip today. We are leaving in a short time on an early flight to Columbus, Ohio. The plan is to be back in D.C. in time for the show tonight (or else I will be the phoner… you know, the producers will put some picture of me on the screen… in other words, calling it in). Want to try and guess what takes us to Columbus? (No, not Jack Hanna, although if I had extra time I would go to the Columbus Zoo.)

And tomorrow, yes, to Atlanta with Shep Smith. FNC is touring the country thanking all of you for watching FOX and making us No. 1. It is our 10-year anniversary of being on the air and we are leaving the studio, hitting the road and thus proving to you we really do appreciate you watching.

If you watched last night, you saw the segment we did on the two San Francisco Chronicle journalists who have been ordered to jail for not revealing their sources in the stories they have written about the S.F. Giants Barry Bonds investigation.

One of our guests on the topic was their lawyer, Eve Burton, the vice president and general counsel for Hearst Corporation, which owns The Chronicle.

Here is the behind the scenes: I have known Eve for several years and she is a friend. When I was at CNN, she was CNN's chief counsel and thus how I know her. Since we both left CNN, we have maintained our friendship. We had dinner in NYC a few weeks ago and she told me about this case… so I asked her if she would come on our show and talk about it. It is a very, very, very, very important issue. I am curious what you think: Should journalists be put in jail for failing to reveal sources? Or should they have a shield to protect them because of the need to have a free and open press? (I know how I feel.)

Two nights ago Larry Birkhead appeared on our show. He said he is the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby… but last night Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole's lawyer, on "Larry King" said HE is the father of the new baby. I think we need a DNA test... soon.

Now for some e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

Our dogs, Scottish Terrier and Schnoodle, used to tear up paper, mess up newspapers, take socks, etc., until we started leaving the TV on for them when we left or went to work for the day. They are particularly good when we leave Animal Planet on all day on low volume. We tried the radio for a while, but the TV works a lot better. Sometimes the Scotty will sit and watch for quite a while even while we are at home. Crazy, but it works.
Nancy J. Crichton

E-mail No. 2

Dear Greta,
We embrace negative ads for two reasons. First, we love to see someone doing something far more stupid than we ourselves do. In short, it makes us feel better about ourselves. Second, we are a competitive people. Laying bare your competitor's weaknesses is key to winning. And everybody loves a winner, apparently. Just take a look around at your fellow fans the next time you are at a sporting event. The more the home team beats the snot out of the competition, the louder the roar.
P.S. You have nice teeth.

E-mail No. 3

Just think, if California really did lose its evidence and bungles the kiddie porn case against John Mark Karr, his arrest and deportation from Thailand for the Ramsey case will have accomplished just one thing: bringing yet another pedophile into this country who will be free to roam wherever he pleases and not be required to register in any sexual offenders program or list.

E-mail No. 4

Hi Greta,
I saw your show tonight and thought I could help shed some light on the “voicemail” issue of Brian Shaffer’s disappearance.
I am three years retired from Verizon Advanced Data Inc. and for years used to program phone switches and voicemail, and was pretty good at figuring out voicemail problems. I worked for Verizon, the landline phone, not the cell side of the house, but I assume the voicemail is all the same. In order to help you, I’ll have to first give you an overview of how voicemail works.
First of all, the "voicemail" is a very complicated thing. There is the standard “voicemail” for everyday type of residential customers, and then there is “CENTREX,” which is even more complicated programming, and could actually be controlled by someone else. Both types of voicemail actually have two separate databases, to answer your question as to why the phone company is taking so long to figure out the problem. There is the phone company side of the database programming that, in turn, interfaces with the voicemail or CENTREX voice servers, which is owned by a separate company or vendor, but can be accessed by the telco for programming. Both the telco and voice servers have to be programmed, and under some circumstances due to programming errors, one or the other may be missing some critical part of the programming which would cause faulty voicemail forwarding or cause no forwarding at all.
CENTREX is usually used by a large business, such as a college, large inbound call centers or even FOX NEWS! If Brian’s cell phone service was purchased and controlled through the college, it could be a CENTREX type of voicemail, in which case, anything could have happened either by Brian’s hand or by the college itself. Since it’s not clear what type of cell service he had, other issues may be at the root of the “cell phone mystery.” There was something mentioned about him being “out of funds” at school, and that made me think it may be CENTREX type of voicemail. If it was a CENTREX type of voicemail through the college, it could have been shut off or deactivated by them. You would have to find out about the type of cell service he actually had. I’ll explain a little about CENTREX later.
Regular “voicemail” is a whole separate service, purchased by the phone or cell company from another vendor. It has to be “programmed” into the database of each unique customers service package on the telco side, regardless if it’s paid for as part of the phone service package or separately. This can be accomplished automatically by the telco on a “new install”, as the database of all telco’s can do that on a new install. But when there was a disconnect for non-payment or some other reason a phone or cell service was shut off on the company’s side, (like a number change or something) it has to be manually re-programmed back into the database by the telco, then reactivated by the customer. Few database programmers really understand the way voicemail works in their database, unless they’ve worked with it for years. I did, primarily because my job was to troubleshoot it and other switching problems on rollout of all new telco products. I’m explaining all of this because my suspicion is that coincidentally sometime shortly after Brian’s disappearance, his cell service may have been interrupted due to non-payment, then subsequently turned back on. I’ll get back to that later.
CENTREX, on the other hand, is a “whole product” usually purchased by the company, corporation or college who is using it, and the employees are “trained” on how to use it and program it into their complicated phone systems. Usually the employees, through lack of understanding, screw it up occasionally and voicemails somehow get de-programmed.
So, to sum this all up, I believe the real issue isn't with Brian's cell phone being “OFF or ON, but whether or not it was charged up or not, or with the "voicemail" and all it’s complexities itself, or that his cell service may have been interrupted due to non-payment and wasn’t re-programmed correctly when turned back on…or a combination of all three.
My question is whether Brian’s phone was charged up or not when everyone was trying to call him. (Not whether it was on or off.) This could be a key as to why it would ring at first, then go to voicemail, then all of a sudden NOT ring before forwarding to voicemail. What I’m getting at is, you know when you fly anywhere, your phone is constantly searching for a signal (roaming), and if you forgot to actually turn off your cell phone, you will find it "dead" when you have landed from a long flight, because it used up all it’s charge trying to find a signal. During that flight, anyone trying to reach you would probably automatically forward WITHOUT rings, to voicemail. (I say “probably” because, as I told you, I worked for the “land-line” side of the telco, not the “cell” side, so I don’t know for sure what triggers cell phones to voicemail, but from all my voicemail experience, I believe it all works primarily the same way.) Also, was Brian’s cell service interrupted for non-payment then subsequently turned back on?
The same thing could happen if you're on “disconnect" for non-payment of your phone bill. When the phone is re-connected, OR the cell phone is charged back up, it resumes its "voicemail" capabilities. The uncharged state of the cell phone triggers calls to forward to voicemail and the “temporary disconnect” (a trigger put into the phone or cell company’s database) for non-payment triggers the phone or cell to automatically shut off voicemail to the customer, the voice server is de-programmed and all messages are lost, but the voicemail still remains as a service programmed on the telco database. The telco’s usually give a customer 10 days to pay their “temporary disconnect” before a “permanent disconnect” happens. When the customer pays their bill, the telco has to reprogram the voice server only on a “temporary disconnect” (sometimes this is where the problem lies with voicemail…it doesn’t get put back into the voice server by the telco programmers) and then the customer has to re-activate it and re-program their outgoing message to callers. Now, if the phone is permanently disconnected for non-payment, the voicemail will cease entirely…be totally de-programmed. If the customer calls in to re-establish their cell or phone service, they can usually get their previous phone number back within 30 days, but all voicemail will have to be re-programmed, both on the phone or cell company’s side in the database and voice server, and the customer must activate it all over again.
So, again, my question is, did he get disconnected for non-payment temporarily or permanently before or shortly after he disappeared? As I said before, there was some mention on your show that his father was sending the girlfriend money to keep the cell phone paid up as his “loan was out of funds” or something. It sounded to me like it might have been shut off, then when someone, the girlfriend or father found out, they paid the bill and had it turned back on. If this was the case and it WAS actually TURNED OFF for non-payment for a period of time, the voicemail would go back on his account but could have been compromised by bad programming. If it wasn’t compromised, and was programmed correctly back into both the telco database and the server, then BRIAN WOULD HAVE TO ACTIVATE IT ON HIS SIDE WITH HIS OUTGOING MESSAGES, RING TONE, ETC!! That is the question! Did any of these things happen?
In other words, the cell phone company, after turning his phone back on after a disconnect for non-payment would put the “voicemail service” (the basic programming into their switch) back, but Brian would have to “make it work” by going into his cell phone and activating it and putting in his outgoing messages for his callers. Also, it was my experience while working for Verizon that sometimes due to human or computer error, the voicemail service never got put back in the voicemail server after reconnecting from non-payment. A glitch in the system? Not really a glitch… it basically is a programming error by an employee of the cell or phone company. As I previously explained, the voicemail service is a separate vendor service, on it’s own server, purchased by the telco (unknown to the customer) and has to “manually” be put back in the voice server for the customer’s unique service.
Now, the voicemail server itself has "layers," meaning it will hold so many messages, depending on the package you are paying for with your phone or cell service, usually 20 messages at a time. If it's full, it will sub-layer any future messages until the first 20 messages are heard and deleted, then, more will "drop into" the voicemail box server as room allows, after one or more of the first 20 messages are deleted. (Sort of like some e-mail servers work.)
If Brian's voicemail box is full in the voice server, and his phone wasn't charged up, any calls to his cell phone would probably go to the sub-layer of voicemail in the voicemail server. As I said before, voicemail is tricky and complicated, and if Brian’s cell phone had many messages and “overloaded” the system, it could have triggered an automatic forwarding of all calls to the sub-layer, until someone on the telco side reset it. I recall when troubleshooting voicemail at Verizon, after exhausting all avenues in trying to “fix” it without deleting messages, sometimes I would have to “dump” the whole thing in the voice server, and re-program it entirely. In those cases, the customer would lose all messages, and have to re-activate their end and re-program their outgoing messages, tones, number of rings, etc.
So, in my thoughts, during the first hours of his disappearance, the problem with his cell phone was that it lost its charge at some point, not that it was turned off. (Maybe he was on a plane?) During the loss of charge on his phone, calls would automatically go to voicemail without rings. That's the main key. If somehow, his phone was recharged after Sept. 8th, then it would resume the 4-rings before going to voicemail. If it just rang and rang and rang, then I’d say someone on the telco side removed or otherwise de-programmed the voicemail. Absolutely, someone other than Brian physically removed the programming in the database, although he could have (or someone could have) called the cell phone company and asked that it be removed. It’s not at all possible for a customer to entirely de-program the voicemail…unless it was CENTREX. CENTREX can be manipulated by the end user.
I was a little confused as to what his girlfriend was saying about what Brian’s cell phone did after Sept. 8th..."it was ringing, ringing, ringing". Did it ever go on to voicemail? You don't HAVE voicemail and then NOT have voicemail. As I said before, someone from the cell phone company had to have removed it... either in the telco database or the voice server or both. Maybe the police had it removed so they could track any incoming phone calls.
Anyway, I'll ponder the situation further when I understand more about the rings. I would like clarification on the number of rings before going to voicemail or if it went to voicemail after Sept. 8 at all. Maybe you could do that on your next show on his disappearance.
My personal AND MAYBE STUPID opinion is Brian’s service was interrupted by non-payment and either the telco bumbled in reprogramming the voicemail, or the police removed it OR, the unthinkable, that Brian went off on an airplane, he left his phone on and his charge drained out and he didn’t have a charger with him. Then he somehow obtained a charger somewhere, so the phone is now ON, and that’s why it rings and rings but doesn’t go to voicemail because the police removed it or the phone company didn’t re-program it properly! Now, if there is NO VOICEMAIL, he’s just NOT ANSWERING HIS PHONE BECAUSE HE KNOWS HE’LL BE IN BIG TROUBLE! (I told you it was a stupid idea. Don’t pay any attention to me! That was just to make you laugh!)
I watch every night. GREAT SHOW! Sorry to have given you this lengthy training on voicemail, but thought it would help you to understand it’s complexities to be able to figure out why his phone is doing what it’s doing.
If you have any questions, just email me. I’ll be happy to try to try to figure out what the voicemail is doing or not doing. Now that you understand a little about voicemail, I promise not to be so lengthy next time! Boy, I have entirely tooooo much time on my hands, huh?
My regards to Mark Furman too. He’s an awesome detective!
Jan Low
Gloucester, MA

E-mail No. 5

Hi Greta,
Funny story about your dog. Whichever one it is, he/she probably also enjoys watching you fetch the items from your yard.
When my dog was younger he did some funny things, but not as adventures as you described. My dog's favorite mischievous task was to TP the inside of the house. He would go into one of the bathrooms, grab the end of the roll of toilet paper with his teeth and parade through the house until the roll was empty, wrapping it around chairs, table legs, etc. Sometimes he did this while I was home. He would first walk into the room where I was to see if I looked at him, if I didn't he would check back two or three times within a few minutes to make sure I wasn't looking at him before beginning his TPing project.
Also, once when I was not home he dragged my down comforter from the bedroom (off the bed) to the living room to lay on it. That was only funny because the dog weighed only 10 pounds, probably less than the comforter, and I still wonder how he managed to do that and how long it took him.
Anyway, dogs are funny. Hope you post the outcome once you have the camera installed.

E-mail No. 6

Love your dog story. We also had a shepard. He was not very fond of my son. When my son would come home on weekends, Vito would unpack his suitcase when he wasn't paying attention. He would drag his things out to the back yard and throw them all over... underwear included. When he would return to school, we would always be scrambling to find his belongings. He would always look so innocent while we were searching. He has never touched anyone else's things except my checkbook, which he tore to shreds out back (he must have known I was broke). He always managed to take my sons things even if it was only a glove from his pocket. He stopped after about a year. So therefore for you, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Good Luck!

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