Friday, May 19, 2006

A Nation of Suspects

by Eric Alterman
May 18, 2006

Back in January, while NBC’s Andrea Mitchell was interviewing New York Times reporter James Risen about his story that blew the lid off the National Security Agency’s secret wiretapping program, she asked a strange question.

In an interview that never actually ran on any NBC affiliate and which the network quickly scrubbed from its Web site, Mitchell asked Risen if he knew anything about reporters being swept up in the NSA’s domestic surveillance operation. He said he didn’t know.

She pressed harder, asking pointedly if he had any information showing that CNN’s Christiane Amanpour had been eavesdropped upon by the Feds. Risen again claimed ignorance. But the questions, and the fact that NBC pulled the transcript from their Web site, ignited a small storm of controversy in the blogosphere that ended up fading from public view almost as fast as it had erupted.

A few days later, an unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence official” would tell CNN that the “National Security Agency did not target CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour or any other CNN journalist for surveillance.” And that seemed to be good enough for the rest of the mainstream media.

At least until last week, when USA Today exposed what appears to be a massive internal eavesdropping program directed at American citizens. On Monday, only days after the USA Today’s scoop, ABC News’ Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported that a "senior federal law enforcement official" had informed them that "the government is tracking the phone numbers [the two reporters] call in an effort to root out confidential sources."

... A nation of sheep inevitably begets a government of wolves -- Edward R. Murrow

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