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Reporter Phone Records Being Used to Find Leaks 971

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-so-confidential-informant dept.
jackbird writes "Brian Ross, Chief Investigative Correspondent for ABC news says a confidential source informed him that reporter's phone records are being used by the administration to track down leaks. Apparently reporters for the New York Times, ABC News, and the Washington Post are being scrutinized. The fact that ABC News journalists are even seriously wondering about whether the warning is connected to the NSA's domestic surveillance activities indicates just how anxious many people in Washington have become."
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Reporter Phone Records Being Used to Find Leaks

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  • Good stuff! (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday May 15, 2006 @03:58PM (#15337093) Homepage Journal

    Send all these freedom-hating reporters who seek the so-called "truth" to Gitmo!
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Monday May 15, 2006 @03:58PM (#15337100) Homepage
    Without reading the article, it's not obvious at first glance which country the summary's referring to...
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:01PM (#15337129)
    Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear.

    Of course, having an inside contact at the government is something to hide.

    Hmmm, need to update that a little bit. "Those who have no criticism of the government have nothing to fear."
    • Having a contact inside the government isn't something to hide. This is a way to intimidate contacts and discourage entirely legal contact with the press. Perhaps you're forgetting that phone calls have innocent content most of the time and that most relationships have nothing at all wrong in their conduct?
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:21PM (#15337378)
        Having a contact inside the government isn't something to hide.
        You would think so, wouldn't you?

        I mean, I'm sure that there are a lot of calls made to "reporters" at Fox News. But I'll bet $20 that we're not going to hear about any phone records of Fox News "reporters" being checked.

        Makes you wonder, eh?
        This is a way to intimidate contacts and discourage entirely legal contact with the press. Perhaps you're forgetting that phone calls have innocent content most of the time and that most relationships have nothing at all wrong in their conduct?
        That's why I put in the "Those who have no criticism of the government have nothing to fear."

        If you're "reporting" a "leak" that hurts Bush and Co's political opponents ... no problem.

        If you're "reporting" a "leak" that says Bush and Co are doing good ... no problem.

        If you're reporting a leak that says Bush and Co are doing something that may be illegal ... expect an investigation from the FBI, CIA, NSA and a speech from Bush saying that you're a traitor and hurting our troops and our security and helping the terrorists.
    • by drooling-dog (189103) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:29PM (#15337462)
      Hmmm, need to update that a little bit. "Those who have no criticism of the government have nothing to fear."

      It's worse than even that, actually. What makes you think that people inside the government won't misuse their power and access to information for purely private purposes?

      For example: If you run a business and one of your competitors has an inside track to the gatekeepers of this information, I'd say it's time to start worrying...

  • by ActionAL (260721) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:02PM (#15337138)
    I thought the u.s. government was only supposed to be looking at calls to/from al-queda persons. At least that is what they keep repeating in defending their nsa spying on u.s. citizens fiasco. I guess it's just another lie.
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Monday May 15, 2006 @05:30PM (#15338045) Homepage Journal
      I will tell you what their line will be: Our domestic programs are to protect us against terrorism, and any compromising of that program exposes us to and increased terror risk. Therefore, any leak inside the government is a threat to the anti-terror efforts.

      IMNSHO, this is one of the scariest things that has happened in the US in my lifetime.
      • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday May 15, 2006 @06:33PM (#15338564) Homepage Journal
        I agree. Everything up until now has just pissed me off, enraged me, upset me, worried me, etc...

        This latest thing just goddamned fucking SCARES me. The government tracing the phone calls of journalists to track down their sources, sources of stories that reveal questionable and possibly illegal government actions... damn. Just fucking DAMN. In America. Not some tin pot south american dictatorship, not in the USSR, but right here in the US.

        It's proper to be enraged when others are being made the targets unfairly... but now WE'RE the targets.

        I feel like hanging black crepe - I'm in mourning for my country.

    • Treason? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday May 15, 2006 @07:02PM (#15338732) Homepage
      Durring a time of war, releasing classified information is an act of treason last I heard. So ya, it's serious shit that DOES rank up there with terrorism.

      Hey, don't look at me, I didn't write the rules.
  • Ah Ain't No Crook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:03PM (#15337147) Homepage
    If the President were to wake up tomorrow morning and decide that Howard Dean needs to be monitored because the President believes Mr. Dean may be the recipient of leaked information, what is there to stop him from ordering the NSA to do just that, no questions asked? If the monitoring turned up all sorts of politically interesting information but no ties to terrorists, what stops the President from simply taking whatever information was gathered and using it for political gain?

    Is there any oversight of this program whatsoever?

    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thefirelane (586885) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:08PM (#15337207)
      This is exactly the point of checks and balances... and it is something all the other posts about 'they should stop leaking programs that help us fight terrorists' are missing.

      There is not reply to this other than 'we don't think the president would do this'

      Well... "conservatives"... this wasn't the point of founding this country What about the next president, or the one after that... still trust them?

    • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:11PM (#15337258) Homepage Journal
      I'm sure GW Bush is an excellent person and can be trusted with anything at all. But to the 29% that think GW Bush is a great president I ask you: How are you so sure that the NEXT president is going to be as trustworthy as the current president?

      Ah, OK, Now I see how you know the trustworthiness of the next president. I forgot about that. Diebold. LOL.

    • by the_demiurge (26115) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:12PM (#15337267) Homepage
      That's the scariest part of the whole thing. There is no oversight whatsoever unless Congress manages to do something personally.

      The justice department attempted to investigate the NSA spying program, but they were denied a security clearance [msn.com]. With this sort of political climate, the public has to rely on leaks from people inside to even know what's going on.

      • Re:Ah Ain't No Crook (Score:5, Interesting)

        by morcheeba (260908) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:55PM (#15337718) Journal
        With this sort of political climate, the public has to rely on leaks from people inside to even know what's going on.

        Forget that... the Congress has to rely on leaks to know what's going on! Only 4 of the 535 members were briefed on the domestic/international warrant-less wiretaps. Who knows how many were briefed on this new privacy invasion.
      • by Akoma The Immortal (36474) <pascal.abessolo@com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:56PM (#15337729) Homepage
        So let me get this straight..

        The JD (Governement) was denied a security clearance to investigate the wired taping by the NSA (a Governement's agency)?

        WTF???

        I am dreaming this or what?

        • by aussersterne (212916) on Monday May 15, 2006 @05:26PM (#15338020) Homepage
          You are not dreaming. And the most important thing you can do is to TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY and give them links to these stories (that get buried so quickly) at reputable news sources.

          There's still this mentality out there that no matter how much Bush seems to suck, nothing *really wrong* can happen with the US government simply because "this is America," and anyone who says that we're in dire straits is really just a black helicopters tinfoil hat freak.

          And all the while, the black helicopters are gathering overhead and the supply of tinfoil to make hats has been silently cut off. Things really are very bad right now (do a little more research into these cases, and into the name Russell Tice, you'll be shocked at what you find) but the public is absolutely unaware of it, and because "big media" won't panic, they refuse to think anyone who does panic is sane.

          The best thing any of us can do is go to friends and family who trust our judgment and tell them that things are very, very bad with the US government right now and the 2006 election *may actually be* the last possible turning point, beyond which there is no return.

          This genie is not going back in the bottle. We are stuck with these departments and a national information gathering infrastructure that is not only monitoring citizens phones, positions (via cell phone tracking), and habits (via bank/credit account tracking), but that is also strong enough to simply leave 99% of congress in the dark about such operations, and to simply brush off official investigations when the remaining 1% get freaked about what they *do* know.

          But what we can do is decide to try to acknowledge and control the genie by selecting the next administration(s) carefully with our votes, rather than conceding to the genie's assurances that genie's don't exist, that nobody that seems to be missing is actually missing, that nobody *really* needs a trial, that torture and secret detention aren't *really* all that bad...
          • by rainman_bc (735332) on Monday May 15, 2006 @06:02PM (#15338360)
            the 2006 election *may actually be* the last possible turning point, beyond which there is no return.

            When only 65% of you even bother to register to vote, and of those only 62% actually vote (totallying about 35% of America)... It's really sad that it only takes ~18% of the population to elect a President.

            And you like to think you're defending democracy, when your same country who is indifferent to it.

    • by jet_silver (27654) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:27PM (#15337442)
      Can you not understand that well-paid, highly-cleared NSA employees do not scuttle their careers without good reason? The people doing the leaking are being asked to do something really evil, and they are not happy about it.

      They're also taking a good-sized risk of winding up in an unmarked jail cell, or grave.

      They're good people, they are saying "this is out of control and the citizenry must not take it any more".
    • oversight (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rodentia (102779) on Monday May 15, 2006 @05:14PM (#15337906)
      Given what little we've been able to glean about these programs (which increasingly appear part of a broad, focused initiative to enable domestic information gathering without *wiretapping*) and that thousands of false leads seem decidedly counter-productive, their primary utility appears to be the extortion of political opponents and intimidation of the press.

      And no, there is no oversight. That is the statutory role of the FISA court, whose creation was in direct response to the preceived need for warrantless surveillance. This court was avoided precisely because the true scope of this fishing expedition is in direct violation of the 4th Amendment, as the court would have informed Cheney, Hayden, Gonzalez, et. al. directly and in no uncertain terms.

      Dubya makes Tricky Dick look like a patsy. These actions have threatened the foundation of the Republic and as they have sown, so shall they reap. Far from strengthening authority, they are challenging American's respect for it; this will not be without consequences for the health of our political system. Let's not forget that the *malaise* of the Carter years was largely a consequence of the betrayal of America's trust in civil institutions by a sitting President.

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:03PM (#15337150) Homepage Journal
    [searing sarcasm]
    If leakers are allowed to reveal to reporters how incompetent, corrupt, and dishonest our leaders are, the terrorists have won.
    [/searing sarcasm]
  • by hirschma (187820) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:07PM (#15337204)
    That was the first line of the first college lecture I ever had. Although the absolute veracity of the statement is likely untrue, the blunt assertion was given to make one point: Give up your rights, have more "security".

    The point is this: leaks, crime, terrorism, etc. are a REQUIRED side effect of freedom. Americans will never get that, and will be happy to toss liberty away in order to prevent nebulous bad things from happening.

    The United States is truly starting to resemble the old Soviet Union in so many ways. The Soviets had official state media; we have totally co-opted media outlets. The Soviets had strong controls on copy machines; we have DRM'd/watermarked copy machines (and output devices). The Soviets had one party rule; we have outright one party rule right now, which stemmed from effective one-party rule of the past (seems that the Democratic-Republican party has split, and one side came out on top). The Soviets had no expectation of privacy... and soon, neither will we.

    The big difference is that the Soviets used an iron fist, as opposed to the USA's velvet glove, to smother freedom. The net result is the same.

  • A shock? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NosPAm.optonline.net> on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:09PM (#15337224) Journal

    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.

    Come on. Brian Ross, big time investigative journalist for ABC News, didn't realize that this was an issue until now? Even before the revelations about the NSA it would have been prudent to avoid using the samephone to contact informants or have them contact you. Pay phones, throwaway cell phones, heck even courtesy phones in hotel lobbies -- I could see them using all sorts of phones to get in touch with people, so as not to leave a visible trail. After all, phone records are accessible legally by the cops, and they could certainly pull phone records for a reporter if they thought the reporter was involved in something nefarious, though I believe they require a warrant (IANAL).

    And for those of you naive enough to believe that because all the NSA is getting is phone numbers, perhaps the phrase "reverse lookup" has not passed your ear recently, but nowadays you can even do it through Google. Privacy is tissue-paper compared to what it used to be. I suspect an unlisted number isn't even really unlisted anymore.

  • by Badgerman (19207) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:11PM (#15337253)
    . . . we supposedly had no worries over calls being tracked inside the country? That it was only suspected terrorists. Apparently that was, no surprise, a lie.

    Though leaking classified information is obviously somehting to be concerned about, this sounds more like someone's casting a wide net to try and catch a few fish. It's the kind of thing that's ripe for abuse, and smells like an unwarranted search and siezure (of data).

    So, what will next week bring? All our phones are tapped? It seems every week or so things get worse . . .
  • What a surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:23PM (#15337393) Homepage
    Boy, I never saw this one coming. The government using their phone number records to investigate things that aren't related to terrorists. I sure thought they were going to stick to protecting us from terrorists with this data.

    I have no problem with the government obtaining a warrant to get this information. But that's not what they've done. What they've done is about as good as tapping phones. Anyone who sees it differently has WAY too much trust of the U.S. government.

    And I know that they'll argue that these leaks somehow put us in danger of a terrorist attack. I mean, if the subject had been something as mundane as outting a CIA operative, then of course, they'd be sure to overlook it, particularly if the leak came out of the offices of the President and Vice President.

    It amazes me that people aren't yelling and screaming about this and marching in front of the White House. People in this country have become too complacent and they're going to lose the freedoms that so many people have died to protect over the years. And when it comes to that, we'll have nobody to blame but ourselves.

    We can blame Bush and his administration, but when it comes down to it, they're not to blame. Because we know what they're doing and we're not kicking their asses out on the street.
    • by inKubus (199753) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:54PM (#15337707) Homepage Journal
      It amazes me that people aren't yelling and screaming about this and marching in front of the White House.

      I'll be right behind you. Go, march, at LEAST yell and scream. Donate to the EFF [eff.org]. CALL your representatives, city, state, and federal. If you already have, choose one and do it again. Once is not always enough.

    • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @05:07PM (#15337831)
      "It amazes me that people aren't yelling and screaming about this and marching in front of the White House. People in this country have become too complacent and they're going to lose the freedoms that so many people have died to protect over the years. And when it comes to that, we'll have nobody to blame but ourselves."

      More than 11 million people protested in cities throughout the world to oppose an invasion of Iraq. Bush dismissed the protests, saying that he doesn't "decide policy based upon a focus group."

      I don't think yelling and screaming will do much now, other than get yourself fast-tracked to the front of "Some List" that you probably don't want to be on at all.

  • by ENOENT (25325) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:24PM (#15337410) Homepage Journal
    I mean, he only spied on ONE HOTEL ROOM.

    How awfully nice to have the technology to spy on everyone in the country at once, and sufficiently rabid supporters to shout down anyone who questions the practice.
  • by bsandersen (835481) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:40PM (#15337571) Homepage
    Time for the Fourth Estate to pick up the challenge. Its passivity and timidity post 9/11 and the run-up to the war in Iraq fed this kind of arrogance. If we want to ensure Orwell's tale is only cautionary and not prescient, the press will need to act quickly and deliberately, challenging these bullies instead of simply being their mouthpieces. Quit worrying about ratings; start worrying about credibility and the truth.
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <{moc.oohay} {ta} {notrab_gerg}> on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:40PM (#15337576) Homepage Journal
    It amazes me how many of the comments on the ABC News blog say, "the government should put leakers away for life!" and "treasonous journalists should be shot!"

    Don't they realize that those are the attitudes that allowed Hitler and Stalin to operate? (And don't give me any lip about Goodwin's Law. This is serious.) I'm absolutely floored by folks who would like nothing better than to live in a police state coocoon when it's "their people in charge," but then scream bloody murder if "the wrong people" hold power. They just can't see that this attitude makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. Give the government an inch and they will take a mile, always. There is ALWAYS someone out there who wants more power, and it is our duty to ensure they cannot take it, whether we agree with them ideologically or not.
    • Don't they realize that those are the attitudes that allowed Hitler and Stalin to operate?

      Of course they do. An integral part of authoritarian regiemes is their willingness to share a portion of their absolute power with anyone willing to following their ideals and serve up their neighbours on a plate. Sycophants profit enourmously under dictatorships, and their unscrupulous devotion is just what tyrannical regiemes need to stay in power.

      For a fresher look at this, read "Wild Swans" by Jung Chang for a good example of just how much the most twisted and unscrupulous of people profit when repression is required. Jung's father, a regional commander of extremely high principles and integrity, is almost beaten to death and hounded during the cultural revolution. Meanwhile, various people who you wouldn't trust as far as you could throw, continue to rise up the ranks and reel in the dough. Most notably a husband, wife pair known as the Tings, though they did eventually get ousted when they went altogether too far.

      Basically, in a dictatorship, the most toxic and evil elements of society finally rise to the top and take their pleasure in stamping on the necks of all those under them. This is why dicatorships succeed. Not because of enigmatic leaders, weighty ideaologies or rhetoric; but because there are all too many willing to lick the tyrants boot so that the rest of us in turn might lick theirs.
  • by NorseWarrior (975051) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:42PM (#15337589)
    I get so tired of people running out the old saw about putting people's lives in danger...I'm one of those people...and I signed on to protect and defend the constitution. You either have to be a right-wing nutcase or have your head in the sand not to realize that the current administration is vastly expanding its role in relationship to the other branches.

    Bottom line: if guaranteeing the 1st and 4th amendments (free press and unreasonable searches, for those of you who slept through Civics class) means we lose a few good guys, then that's the cost of doing business. Cold, but true.

    And, for all the chickenhawks out there who use soldiers as shields for illegal acts-- to quote my favorite actor, "Pick up a rifle and stand a post."
  • by viewtouch (1479) on Monday May 15, 2006 @04:58PM (#15337744) Homepage Journal
    The Constitution specifically states that there can be no laws which abridge (i.e., curtail) the freedom of the press. In plain English that means that The Constitution specifially withholds from the government any authority to even investigate the activities of the people when they are about the business of publishing information.

    There are no exceptions to this - not even 'national security'.

    Of course if The Constitution is considered merely to be a 'Goddamned Piece of Paper', as Bush has described it, and if the people who are involved in violating The Constitution don't care about adhering to it, then all bets are off, which is pretty much where we in the US are at these days.
  • by unity100 (970058) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @05:09PM (#15337859) Homepage Journal
    Seriously i mean ? All i hear that loose organisations with small representative base among population trying to do something.

    Arent these YOUR rights ? Why arent you fighting back ? Isnt being ripped off your rights by your government similar to being ripped off your rights by a foreign power, like in 1774 ?

"If there isn't a population problem, why is the government putting cancer in the cigarettes?" -- the elder Steptoe, c. 1970

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