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FBI collects media contacts from Senate Committee

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From the Fall 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 18.

From the Fall 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 18.

In an effort to pinpoint the source of leaked information about conversations intercepted by the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August requested details of their press contacts from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The NSA intercepted a conversation Sept. 10, 2001, about possible terrorist activity the next day. The conversations were discussed June 18 at the House and Senate intelligence committees’ closed inquiry. CNN broadcast details of the intercepts on June 19.

According to an Associated Press report, the news service contacted 13 of the 17 committee members. All said they were complying with the FBI request.

The request called for telephone logs, memos, visitor sign-in sheets and other material showing communications with the press between June 18 and June 19, the Associated Press reported.

The move worried free-press advocates.

“It’s an issue that ultimately has a chilling effect on the flow of information from official sources to the public,” editor Doug Clifton of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer told the Associated Press. Clifton also chairs the Amercian Society of Newspaper Editors’ Freedom of Information Committee.

There was no report of similar requests to the House Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the Senate committee chair, instructed his staff to compile the material requested. His staff submitted the information shortly after the request was made, according to his spokesman, Paul Anderson.

FBI and Senate staff said they could not comment on further developments in the situation because it is part of an ongoing investigation. — Jennifer LaFleur