Feds track reporters’ phone calls

The Bush Administration is tracking phone calls made by reporters? Oh my. Stop the presses! Oh, wait, maybe nobody should really be surprised by this.

Reports Brian Ross and Richard Esposito on ABC News’ The Blotter:

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.

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.

Is this a big deal? You bet it is even though it’s not the first time the feds have tracked phone calls of reporters.

Paul McLeary at Columbia Journalism Review Daily says he’s been reporting this for some time:

It’s not exactly surprising that in a program as legally dubious as warrantless telephone surveillance, some NSA or other agency snoop would come up with the bright idea of checking out both the phone records of their own employees and those of journalists to ferret out those who leaked information about the program to the press.

What is somewhat surprising is that everyone is so shocked about this latest revelation.

As CJR Daily has been reporting since January, the latest twist has been hinted at before — and downright alleged in two lawsuits against the Bush administration — but memories have proved exceedingly short.

Back in January, we noted a strange exchange between NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell and New York Times reporter and author of the book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration James Risen. (Risen, of course, is also the guy who, with Eric Lichtblau, broke the domestic spying story in the Times in December 2005.)