Brian Ross / ABC News & – 2006-05-21 22:33:51
ABC’s Brian Ross:
Surveillance of Journalists ‘Makes Me Feel…
As If We Are Drug Dealers or Terrorists’
This morning on CNN’s Reliable Sources, ABC’s chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross — who this week learned he was the target of federal surveillance operations — described the effect that unchecked spying is having on journalists:
ROSS: [I]t makes me feel, in a way — and this is, I think, the disturbing part — as if we are drug dealers or terrorists trying to traffic in information, and should we be using bags full of quarters like old Mafia capos to avoid having our phone calls traced? I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong; I don’t think any other reporter is, either. We’re trying to cover these stories, which are difficult, but which are very important.
Ross also revealed that the surveillance has had a chilling effect on his sources, who now risk being exposed:
I’m working on a big story now with people who are confidential sources inside the Federal Air Marshal Service. They were all alarmed that they might be exposed as talking with me in violation of rules. So it’s of great concern.
Full transcript below:
KURTZ: How did you find out that the administration is tracking your phone calls and those of other journalists?
ROSS: Well, a confidential source and a leak, and a very good tip that was surprising to us. Someone told — a senior federal official told my colleague, Rich Esposito, that “We know who you are calling; you should get some new cell phones and quick.” That’s what we know, Howard. We don’t know how it is they know who we’re calling. We’ve been trying to figure that out. But this source is so good that we take it very seriously.
KURTZ: Just on a personal level, how did you — what was your reaction to learn that law enforcement officials, according to this source, are analyzing the numbers that you dial — presumably in an effort to track down your other confidential sources?
ROSS: You know, I guess as an abstract, we always thought that was likely or possible, but once I actually heard this specific information — and this person knew a couple of specific calls — it was truly alarming and made you think, well, my gosh — what are we going to do about this? It means a lot more in-person visits. I’m working on a big story now with people who are confidential sources inside the Federal Air Marshal Service. They were all alarmed that they might be exposed as talking with me in violation of rules. So it’s of great concern.
KURTZ: What other news organizations are being — having their phone calls tracked, according to your informant?
ROSS: We were told reporters at “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post,” and it seemed consistent with the information we know, that the CIA has made several criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, the FBI, based on stories that the “Post” and the “Times” have run about CIA secret prisons and the Jim Risen story at The New York Times about NSA wiretapping. In both cases, those agencies have confirmed that criminal investigations have begun. And when we checked with the FBI, they put out a statement that essentially said, We take logical investigative steps, starting with the phone records of the government agencies. And then you sort of read through and parse out what they say, it seems that if they go after reporters, they say they do it in a legal fashion.
KURTZ: Not exactly a hard denial. Were you given any names of journalists who might be on the receiving end of this?
ROSS: Other than Esposito and Ross, no. But I’m assuming your colleague, Dana Priest, and Rison and others at the “Times,” who have done a lot of important work that involved information that the CIA, I assume, presumes to be classified and they see that as a violation of the law. And that starts the process by which they essentially can use provisions of the Patriot Act if they chose, or just a grand jury, to pursue it.
And it makes me feel, in a way — and this is, I think, the disturbing part — as if we are drug dealers or terrorists trying to traffic in information, and should we be using bags full of quarters like old Mafia capos to avoid having our phone calls traced? I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong; I don’t think any other reporter is, either. We’re trying to cover these stories, which are difficult, but which are very important.
Attorney Gen.: Reporters Can Be Prosecuted
WASHINGTON (May 21, 2006) — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security.
The nation’s top law enforcer also said the government will not hesitate to track telephone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation, but officials would not do so routinely and randomly.
“There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility,” Gonzales said, referring to prosecutions. “We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected.”
In recent months, journalists have been called into court to testify as part of investigations into leaks, including the unauthorized disclosure of a CIA operative’s name as well as the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program.
Gonzales said he would not comment specifically on whether The New York Times should be prosecuted for disclosing the NSA program last year based on classified information.
He also denied that authorities would randomly check journalists’ records on domestic-to-domestic phone calls in an effort to find journalists’ confidential sources.
“We don’t engage in domestic-to-domestic surveillance without a court order,” Gonzales said, under a “probable cause” legal standard.
But he added that the First Amendment right of a free press should not be absolute when it comes to national security. If the government’s probe into the NSA leak turns up criminal activity, prosecutors have an “obligation to enforce the law.”
“It can’t be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity,” Gonzales told ABC’s “This Week.”
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
1 in 136 US Residents Behind Bars
Elizabeth White / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (May 21, 2006) — Prisons and jails added more than 1,000 inmates each week for a year, putting almost 2.2 million people, or one in every 136 US residents, behind bars by last summer.
The total on June 30, 2005, was 56,428 more than at the same time in the government reported Sunday. That 2.6 percent increase from mid-2004 to mid-2005 translates into a weekly rise of 1,085 inmates.
Of particular note was the gain of 33,539 inmates in jails, the largest increase since 1997, researcher Allen J. Beck said. That was a 4.7 percent growth rate, compared with a 1.6 percent increase in people held in state and federal prisons.
Prisons accounted for about two-thirds of all inmates, or 1.4 million, while the other third, nearly 750,000, were in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Beck, the bureau’s chief of corrections statistics, said the increase in the number of people in the 3,365 local jails is due partly to their changing role. Jails often hold inmates for state or federal systems, as well as people who have yet to begin serving a sentence.
“The jail population is increasingly unconvicted,” Beck said. “Judges are perhaps more reluctant to release people pretrial.”
The report by the Justice Department agency found that 62 percent of people in jails have not been convicted, meaning many of them are awaiting trial.
Overall, 738 people were locked up for every 100,000 residents, compared with a rate of 725 at mid-2004. The states with the highest rates were Louisiana and Georgia, with more than 1 percent of their populations in prison or jail. Rounding out the top five were Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The states with the lowest rates were Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Men were 10 times to 11 times more likely than women to be in prison or jail, but the number of women behind bars was growing at a faster rate, said Paige M. Harrison, the report’s other author.
The racial makeup of inmates changed little in recent years, Beck said. In the 25-29 age group, an estimated 11.9 percent of black men were in prison or jails, compared with 3.9 percent of Hispanic males and 1.7 percent of white males.
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, which supports alternatives to prison, said the incarceration rates for blacks were troubling.
“It’s not a sign of a healthy community when we’ve come to use incarceration at such rates,” he said.
Mauer also criticized sentencing guidelines, which he said remove judges’ discretion, and said arrests for drug and parole violations swell prisons.
“If we want to see the prison population reduced, we need a much more comprehensive approach to sentencing and drug policy,” he said.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.