Tony Snow gets his first tough question from BRAD BLOG's WH correspondent...
By Winter Patriot on 5/17/2006, 2:25pm PT  

Special to BRAD BLOG by BTC News White House Correspondent Eric Brewer

Today during the White House briefing I asked Tony Snow this question:

There have been news reports this week that the FBI is using the Patriot Act to obtain phone records of journalists without their knowledge and without judicial oversight. As a former journalist, are you at all concerned about this sort of intrusion on press freedom?

Tony denied the allegation, saying:

I would be concerned if there was grounding to it. There have been reports, but once again, what it has referred to, the NSF [sic] program, which is strictly concerned with foreign, international terrorism. I'm sorry, the pieces just don't add up.

I'm pretty sure Tony meant to say 'NSL,' which refers to National Security Letters, a kind of administrative subpoena which, under the Patriot Act, can be signed by an FBI agent instead of by a judge, but which is supposed to be used only in terrorism cases. Telephone companies receiving these letters are prohibited by law from revealing the existence of the request to its target.

My question was inspired by a series of items in Brian Ross's ABC News blog The Blotter (see here (scroll down), here, and here), that cite "federal law enforcement sources" for the claim that "National Security Letters are being used to obtain phone records of reporters at ABC News and elsewhere" in a widespread investigation of leaks of classified information from the CIA. Ross is being targeted because he reported on the CIA's secret prisons in Poland and Romania, and on the CIA's use of Predator missiles inside Pakistan. Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor has a good round up of the story here.

So, how much credence can we give to Tony Snow's denial? I dunno. But I just might have forced him into his first big lie.