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Where I'm Calling From

(AP / CBS)

That's the reaction I had when I saw Brian Ross and Richard Esposito's report alleging that "the government is tracking the phone numbers [journalists] call in an effort to root out confidential sources."

Something to keep in mind: Since this is an early, incomplete report, it should not be treated as ironclad. It's tied to an anonymous "senior federal law enforcement official." Beyond that single source, it doesn't have much to it one couldn't infer from last week's revelations about NSA call monitoring. And, somewhat oddly, the story was reported on "The Blotter," an ABC News blog. Was that a signal that ABC News didn't think it had enough to put the report in a stand-alone story? This is a big story to treat so off-handedly. What, exactly, is going on here?

Still: Even if this isn't happening yet, the potential is there. The government is tracking the calls of tens of millions of Americans, and if someone wants to go into the database and find out who a reporter has been talking to, wouldn't the information be just a few mouse clicks away? I imagine that at least some reporters will start using disposable cell phones and, in the case of Ross and Esposito, "in person conversations" with sources for fear that the government will otherwise know to whom they have been talking. Is anyone else more than a little troubled that reporters might now have to embrace tactics favored by terrorists in pursuit of a story?

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