Monday, May 15, 2006

Expanded Governmental Powers to Fight Terrorism and/or Journalism

ABC blogged this morning that they had received word from a "senior federal law enforcement official" that the numbers called by journalists were being tracked by the government. In a recent update, the FBI confirmed that journalists' phone calls were being tracked in relation to leak investigations. The quote, the amazing, amazing quote from "a senior federal offical" is:
“It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration.”
The article goes on to note that the FBI has extensive new powers under the Patriot Act to send out National Security Letters. A phone provider who receives one of these letters must hand over requested phone records and cannot inform the customer of this action. Incidentally, these National Security Letters don't require a judge's signature.

Those law enforcement powers were expanded to fight terrorism, and their use against journalists (ok, against leakers, but journalists' information is being obtained) is wrong. Why this is getting play only on the ABC blog is a little puzzling to me. Isn't this directly on point with the NSA/USA Today story? I mean, those polls which say that most people are fine with that domestic spying program - would they agree that the use of phone records in this manner is inappropriate? I know that the NSA and the FBI are distinct organization, but this is a clear abuse of similar power.


warm fuzzy said...

"The official said our blotter item was wrong to suggest that ABC News phone calls were being "tracked."

"Think of it more as backtracking," said a senior federal official."


Fishfrog said...

As a staunch supporter of government spying on its citizens, the tracking of journalists' phone calls seems beyond the pale. When I first heard about the widescale tracking of phone calls, I thought, "Well, at least they aren't listening to the substance of the calls." But here is an example of when simply knowing who called whom and when provides just as much information as recording the actual content. This is bad. Bad government.