Last month, when President Bush signed the FISA compromise bill into law, the Nation joined a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union over the spying program. The new laws secure for the federal government "sweeping and virtually unregulated authority to monitor the international communications," and so naturally the Nation, which frequently reports from conflict zones, was concerned that their communication might not be private.
This should be a concern for all U.S. news outlets that do international reporting, although sadly the lawsuit didn't get much coverage from any of them. But one would think this should change things:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday that it had improperly obtained the phone records of reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post in the newspapers' Indonesia bureaus in 2004.
Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., disclosed the episode in a phone call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, and apologized for it. He also spoke with Leonard Downie Jr., the executive editor of The Washington Post, to apologize.
F.B.I. officials said the incident came to light as part of the continuing review by the Justice Department inspector general's office into the bureau's improper collection of telephone records through "emergency" records demands issued to phone providers.
The records were apparently sought as part of a terrorism investigation, but the F.B.I. did not explain what was being investigated or why the reporters' phone records were considered relevant.
This proves that the government monitoring the overseas communications of news organizations is not a theoretical concern -- though it would be no less important even then. They've done it at least once recently, we now know. But why? What reporters, and what phone records? Have they done it any other time? To whom? What safeguards are in place, if any, to keep this from happening again?