This morning, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News’ Blog, 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…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. 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.
People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.
Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.
The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.
A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.
This was later confirmed by follow up post stating:
The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters’ phone records in leak investigations.
“It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,” said a senior federal official…Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL).
The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government.