Monday, February 2, 2009

WERE SPECIFIC REPORTERS TARGETED BY NSA WIRETAPS

Center for American Progress - Fewer than 24 hours after the end of the Bush presidency, a former analyst at the National Security Agency revealed on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Bush's National Security Agency "monitored all communications" of Americans and that U.S. news organizations and individual journalists were specifically targeted.

Former analyst Russell Tice told Olbermann that, "The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications-faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all."

Tice went on to explain that, in fact, particular journalists were targeted, just as they were during the bad old days of Watergate. When Olbermann asked if there was "a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the New York Times?" or if "there [is] a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?" Tice responded that, indeed, "if it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything."

Within days, New York Times reporter James Risen also appeared on Olbermann and said that he suspects he was a victim of such surveillance: "What I know for a fact is that the Bush administration got my phone records. Whether that was obtained by the FBI or the NSA, my lawyers and I have been trying to investigate that."

Risen and Tice have some history together-in 2005, Risen, along with Eric Lichtblau, wrote an article in The New York Times exposing the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program for the first time. Tice was one of their sources. Risen and Lichtblau won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting - something that Dick Cheney noted during his farewell round of interviews "always aggravated him."

The Bush administration was aggravated as soon as the story was printed and attempted to identify Risen's sources within the federal government. The New York Times reported in April that government officials called before a grand jury were confronted with phone records documenting their calls with Risen. Notably, neither Risen nor The New York Times received a subpoena for those records. This is why Risen believes he was targeted under the surveillance now described by Tice.

So, how did The New York Times cover Tice's revelations that ordinary American citizens, journalists in general, and possibly one of their own reporters in particular, had their communications monitored without a warrant? As far as we can tell, not at all. . .

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