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jAZ
05-15-2006, 10:58 AM
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2006_05_14.php#008458

(May 15, 2006 -- 11:35 AM EDT // link)
Isn't this the other shoe dropping?

The piece is written in a roundabout sort of way. But if I understand it, Brian Ross is reporting at ABC news that the US government is tracking the calling patterns of political reporters to further their leak investigations.

If that's true, then I think we can set aside any pretense that administration policy on all manner of electronic surveillance isn't being brought to bear on political opponents, media critics, the press, everybody.

I think part of the issue for many people on the administration's various forms of surveillance is not just that some of activities seem to be illegal or unconstitutional on their face. I think many people are probably willing to be open-minded, for better or worse, on pushing the constitutional envelope. But given the people in charge of the executive branch today, you just can't have any confidence that these tools will be restricted to targeting terrorists. Start grabbing up phone records to data-mine for terrorists and then the tools are just too tempting for your leak investigations. Once you do that, why not just keep an eye on your critics too? After all, they're the ones most likely to get the leaks, right? So, same difference. The folks around the president don't recognize any real distinctions among those they consider enemies. So we'd be foolish to think they wouldn't bring these tools to bear on all of them. Once you set aside the law as your guide for action and view the president's will as a source of legitimacy in itself, then everything becomes possible and justifiable.

-- Josh Marshall



http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/05/federal_source_.html

Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling
May 15, 2006 10:33 AM

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials.

People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.

The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.

A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.

jAZ
05-15-2006, 12:25 PM
http://thinkprogress.org/2006/05/15/abc-story-amanpour

ABC Reports NSA Is Monitoring Reportersí Phone Records, Reopens Questions About CNNís Amanpour

In January, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell asked James Risen, the New York Times author who disclosed the NSA wiretapping program, whether CNNís Christiane Amanpour had been eavesdropped upon.

MITCHELL: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
RISEN: No, I donít. Itís not clear to me. Thatís one of the questions weíll have to look into [in] the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I donít know the answer to that.
MITCHELL: You donít have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
RISEN: No, no I hadnít heard that.

The question-and-answers were soon deleted from NBCís website, but NBC did confirm that it was conducting an inquiry into whether reporters had been targeted. CNNís David Ensor received an official response from the NSA:

Iím told considerable manhours today went into making sure the answer to CNN would be accurate. A senior US intelligence official tells use that our colleague Christiane Amanpour has never been targeted by the National Security Agency, and nor has any other CNN journalist. Now, the NSA as you know is the eavesdropping intelligence agency, the US governmentís big ear, and from time to time, the official says, wiretaps overseas or other intercepts turn out to include Americans, or what they call ĎUS personsí, which includes people who works for US companies, it does so inadvertently.

The response Ensor received from the NSA related specifically to eavesdropping ó i.e., the monitoring of the contents of a phone call. According to a report today from ABCís Brian Ross the NSA is tracking reportersí phone records ó but not the contents of their phone calls ó in an effort to root out confidential sources. If the ABC story is true, it raises the question of whether Amanpourís ó or any other journalistís ó phone records were monitored by the NSA.

jiveturkey
05-15-2006, 12:25 PM
I'll feel a lot safer knowing that someone is watching the news. :)

Taco John
05-15-2006, 12:47 PM
This one is going to leave a mark...

the Talking Can
05-15-2006, 01:14 PM
Putin is smiling.

What have we become...

memyselfI
05-15-2006, 04:18 PM
First political dissidents and anti-war protesters and then perceived LW/anti-DUHbya journalists?

Yeah, good thing our boys and girls are dying for democracy. :rolleyes: :banghead:

BucEyedPea
05-15-2006, 04:51 PM
First political dissidents and anti-war protesters and then perceived LW/anti-DUHbya journalists?


Don't forget some traditional conservatives such as Ivan Eland who was kicked off the editorial staff at the WSJ, as well as some others, for being anti-Iraq invasion. Also, libertarians Justin Raimondo, Lew Rockwell and the whole network of libertarians who've been outspokenly against it.

Donger
05-15-2006, 04:55 PM
I'm confused. Are you saying that our government should not pursue those that expose classified national security intel?

jAZ
05-15-2006, 05:15 PM
I'm confused. Are you saying that our government should not pursue those that expose classified national security intel?
Not all law enforcement methods are created equal.

Donger
05-15-2006, 05:42 PM
Not all law enforcement methods are created equal.

*shiver*

the Talking Can
05-15-2006, 07:06 PM
I'm confused. Are you saying that our government should not pursue those that expose classified national security intel?

they don't need warantless domestic spying to find Bush, Cheney, and Libby....but it is scary you want every communication of every citizen monitored just because you're too embarrassed to admit Bush is a lying scum bag....you and the police state deserve each other...

Donger
05-15-2006, 07:20 PM
but it is scary you want every communication of every citizen monitored just because you're too embarrassed to admit Bush is a lying scum bag....you and the police state deserve each other...

That's an amazingly uninformed or deliberately misleadingly assertion. I'm not sure which is worse.

patteeu
05-15-2006, 07:21 PM
Not all law enforcement methods are created equal.

Can you or any of those who are condemning it, provide a detailed description of this law enforcement method?

Adept Havelock
05-15-2006, 07:34 PM
Putin is smiling.



That's because he can appreciate professional behavior vis-a-vie his previous job.

jAZ
05-15-2006, 09:49 PM
Can you or any of those who are condemning it, provide a detailed description of this law enforcement method?
No more detailed that has been posted or described hundreds of times in the media.

The phone records of all calls handled by each of 3 major phone companies have been sent to the NSA for pattern/data mining (that term has been denied, though I think it's accurate). From that data mining, leads are generated and funneled to the other warrantless spying program.

That's how I understand it.

jAZ
05-15-2006, 10:15 PM
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/008467.php

(May 15, 2006 -- 11:15 PM EDT // link)

A bit more on Brian Ross's reporting on the government snooping through reporters' phone records as part of their leak investigation. TPM Reader ME, in an email this evening, cut to the heart of the matter. In a criminal investigation, which a leak investigation can be, investigators can look into all sorts of private information -- phone records, financial records, travel records. They can subpoena you before a grand jury and on and on. We have only to consider the on-going Fitzgerald investigation or, even more to the point, Fitzgerald's earlier but less well known investigation into suspect Muslim charities.

If this is all we're talking about, it's not news. Indeed, the Justice Dept. has fairly detailed guidelines for federal prosecutors when they must subpoena and otherwise investigate members of the press (See 28 CFR 50:10 "Policy with regard to the issuance of subpoenas to members of the news media, subpoenas for telephone toll records of members of the news media, and the interrogation, indictment, or arrest of, members of the news media.").

But in his report Ross doesn't seem to be talking about subpoenas in the course of a conventional criminal investigation. He appears to be referring to something more on-going. And the investigators also seem to be using legal methods at least nominally intended for use in counter-espionage or counter-terrorism. In this case, so-called National Security Letters, the use of which was dramatically expanded by the Patriot Act and has grown by more than 100 fold since 9/11. (This November 2005 article in the Post describes how FBI field supervisors can issue NSLs on virtually anyone, often for the most seemingly trivial contacts with persons of interest.)

Given the Bush administration's self-servingly indulgent definition of the War on Terror, I don't doubt that they would define finding leakers as a subdivision of fighting terrorism, or for that matter scrutinizing political opponents.

We need to know more about what Ross is talking about.

It seems of a piece with the administration's record of abuses of power. But what we know is too vague.

Late Update: According to this AP story, the FBI says that it routinely scrutinizes the phone records of government workers in leak investigations. That doesn't seem too surprising.

The FBI spokesman interviewed by the AP said Ross's report was 'misleading' (AP's word, not his) about scrutiny of journalists. But he doesn't seem to say precisely how. Then this ...

"Where the records of a private person are sought, they may only be obtained through established legal process," [FBI spokesman] Carter said.
The FBI can seek warrants and subpoenas from judges and grand juries, either through traditional courts or a secret court established for espionage and terrorism investigations. The bureau also has the power to seek subscribers' telephone and Internet records without approval of a judge or grand jury in espionage and terrorism cases by issuing a National Security Letter.

The FBI sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents through those letters, the Justice Department said last month.


Again, this is the rub. Ross's report said they were using NSL's. Are they?

The FBI spokesman doesn't seem to deny it.

jAZ
05-15-2006, 10:17 PM
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/008467.php

(May 15, 2006 -- 08:07 PM EDT // link)

Yep, they are scrutinizing journalists phone-records.

According to ABC's Brian Ross ...

The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reportersí phone records in leak investigations.

ďIt used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,Ē said a senior federal official.

The acknowledgement followed our blotter item that ABC News reporters had been warned by a federal source that the government knew who we were calling.


Ross's report is still awfully murky. But it suggests that the FBI is using new provisions of the Patriot Act which allows for the expanded use of so-called National Security Letters. As Ross explains, "the NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government."

In rule of law terms, I guess there's some extremely mild solace to be taken in the fact that the administration has apparently deigned to follow the law in this case. But a police state law still gets you a police state.

This is what the Patriot Act is being used for. In a free society, law enforcement goes before independent magistrates. Apparently we're now beyond that.

-- Josh Marshall

patteeu
05-16-2006, 05:39 AM
No more detailed that has been posted or described hundreds of times in the media.

The phone records of all calls handled by each of 3 major phone companies have been sent to the NSA for pattern/data mining (that term has been denied, though I think it's accurate). From that data mining, leads are generated and funneled to the other warrantless spying program.

That's how I understand it.

There is no indication that the program you are describing is related to what is being reported here. The program you are describing reportedly does not include personal identification information which would make it difficult to zero in on specific journalists. Now I can think of ways that those journalists could be identified in the data, but the point is that you are conflating two reports without a basis for doing so. The "tipster" in your OP doesn't indicate how, why, or under what circumstances reporters are being monitored. It's just as possible that it's being done with a warrant or a subpeona as it is that it's a part of the program you describe.

*edit* I see that your boy, Josh, has recognized this murkiness. If it's true that the scrutiny is being applied within the bounds of the Patriot Act, then the President is doing everything that's being asked of him in the NSA Surveillance Program controversy (i.e. getting Congress to authorize his actions by passing a law). If, true, then any further complaints should be directed at the Congress, IMO. */edit*