Believing the Worst

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ABC News reports that one purpose of the Bush administration’s domestic spying program might well be to keep tabs on the media:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we [i.e., reporters] call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

Administration officials, of course, continue to insist that the NSA is “narrowly designed,” used only to track “terrorists,” rather than, say, reporters or political opponents. And “reasonable”-minded analysts and pundits continue to assure everyone that the NSA doesn’t have the time or the resources to intimidate the media or engage in political warfare. But there’s every reason to think the officials are lying, while the analysts and pundits are terribly naïve.

Look: The president has previously said that the NSA program was only focused on international calls—before the USA Today story broke and we learned he was lying about the program. John Negroponte previously told reporters that the NSA was “absolutely not” monitoring domestic calls—he was lying too. Dick Cheney wanted to piss all over the Constitution and engage in large-scale domestic spying after 9/11. By all accounts he didn’t get what he wanted, but then again, “all accounts” have usually underestimated the amount of law-breaking going on. So yes, it’s entirely possible that the administration is spying on the press, or worse.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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