Blogs > Liberty and Power > NSA to ABC News, "We know who you call"

May 16, 2006 12:41 pm

NSA to ABC News, "We know who you call"

By now everyone knows that some phone giants, like AT&T, have given the NSA access to their voice and data networks and to their customer databases without notifying customers. Those who defend the practice often use the following argument:"We are not listening in on content. We are merely recording the phone numbers in order to establish patterns that could indicate terrorist activity." Of course, it is trivial for the NSA to use the phone numbers to also get the names and addresses of whomever you call but, nevertheless, the idea that they are not listening in makes their activities seem less intrusive, less harmful. That is, until you consider how analysis of those patterns can be used and abused...

One example of abuse is being currently discussed on the ABC News blog. It reads in part, A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) 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.

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. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports.

By analyzing the phone pattern of reporters who are investigating material that the government would like to bury, the NSA can identify/intimidate sources and plug 'leaks' thus making an end-run around freedom of the press. It is equivalent to having a phone tap on irksome media members without the unpleasantness of securing a warrant.

You are cordially invited to join my libertarian discussion BB.

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