Wednesday, May 17, 2006

 

Brian Ross Sticking With His Story About the FBI and Reporters

So it looks as if Brian Ross of ABC News is sticking with its story that the FBI is getting the phone records of reporters with "National Security Letters" as part of its ongoing leak investigation.

National Security Letters are only supposed to be used during investigations into either espionage or terrorism. As I wrote yesterday, FBI spokesman William Carter is refusing to rule out the possibility that the agency is using NSLs.

So now the next key question is this: Is there a scenario by which a leak investigation would fall under the rubric of an espionage or terrorism investigation?

When I asked Carter that, he declined comment -- which suggests that the FBI does believe that such a scenario could come to pass.

Legal experts beg to differ, however. At least one I consulted, Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, thinks that using NSLs for a leak investigation is a huge legal stretch. She says:
If the FBI -- presumably with the approval of the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence -- interprets the Patriot Act amendments to allow them to use secret National Security Letters to investigate leaks, that's an outrageous violation of the intent of Congress in amending the NSL authority.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

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