As we said last week, the problem -- or at least one problem -- with the government's collection of data about all Americans' telephone calls is that we really don't have any way of knowing what the government is doing with the information once it has it.
Is this a case in point?
ABC News reporters Brian Ross and Richard Esposito say they've been told by a senior federal law enforcement official that the government is tracking their telephone calls in order to identify their confidential sources. In a post at ABC's news blog, Ross and Esposito say the official told them: "It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick."
The reporters say they don't know whether the government obtained information about their calls through the NSA database program revealed by USA Today last week or through some other means. However, they say that the Bush administration has a motive for learning about the people with whom they've talked. "Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials," the reporters write. "People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan."
Ross and Esposito say there's no indication that the content of their calls is being monitored. As they note, however, "a pattern of phone calls from a reporter" could reveal the identity of confidential sources.