Schumer Presses Bush on Gov't Tracking of Journalists' Calls
Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer sent the following letter to President Bush regarding the latest revelations that the government may be tracking journalists phone calls. In light of the governments warrantless wiretapping program and database of all Americans phone calls, Schumer called on the President to answer a series of questions about the validity of this possible program. The letter is below:
May 16, 2006
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I have recently read with great concern reports that the government has been tracking phone calls made by journalists, in an effort to identify confidential sources. If true, these latest revelations are a cause of great concern for those of us who cherish the First Amendment and who believe in a truly free and independent press.
It is for that reason that I write to you today to ask that you immediately make clear the answers to the following questions:
ï¿½ Does the NSA terrorist surveillance program or data mining program include the targeting of journalists and their sources?
ï¿½ Have journalists phone records been obtained without a warrant or a court order?
ï¿½ If these reports are true, who in your Administration approved the obtaining of these sensitive records and what is the legal basis for such tracking?
ï¿½ If these reports are true, has the tracking of journalists phone records been conducted by the NSA, the Department of Justice, or some other agency?
I am particularly alarmed by this news considering the information that has been brought to light in the last six months. First, in December, we learned that the Government was engaging in warrantless wiretappingwithout judicial supervisionin the form of a program that was purportedly narrowly tailored to catch terrorist suspects and foil planned attacks. More recently, we learned the Governments efforts extended to tracking phone calls made by tens of millions of average Americans. Against this backdrop, we are now hearing disturbing reports that the federal government is potentially targeting journalists and their confidential sources.
As I am sure you agree, an independent and fair press is vital to our democracy. A free and properly functioning press serves as a vital check on potential abuses of power in our government and society. Therefore, it is important that you clarify as soon as possible whether basic legal protections have been abridged, as is suggested by recent reports. I look forward to your expeditious response.