FREE PRESS -- Eric Alterman and George Zornick, writing in the Center for American Progress, ask why the national news media appear to be ignoring the recent stunning claim by former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice that under the Bush Administration the NSA systematically monitored and recorded the phone and other electronic communications of journalists, among others.

Neither Tice nor his charges were discussed in the Times, either in print or online. This was standard across much of the mainstream media—The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Associated Press have all remained completely silent about Tice’s allegations. And in one of his many, many “legacy” interviews, Bush told Fox’s Brett Baier in December that they were simply “listening to a phone call from a known terrorist.” He was not challenged on this point during that interview, nor any other of which we are aware.
    Of course, this is hardly the first time that the mainstream media has looked the other way toward NSA spying. The NSA’s surveillance of U.N. diplomats in New York before the invasion of Iraq didn’t get much mainstream attention when the story broke (in Britain), nor since. But one might imagine that the direct spying on journalists themselves would excite more attention, particularly given the self-interested aspects of the question and the constitutional complications it raises. Tice’s tantalizing tip was mentioned again on Rachel Maddow’s show, as well on Chris Matthews’, and Michael Calderone blogged about it on the Politico. But that’s it.
    Clearly something deeply disturbing lurks beneath these revelations, and with Bush gone from office, it’s hard to understand just what is preventing journalists from seeking the truth about this program more energetically.

Columnist Dave Stancliff of the Times-Standard in Eureka is not among the silent majority. He concludes his February 1 open letter to President Obama thus:

I know this will not be easy to settle, especially because Congress passed a law in 2007 that legalized warrantless surveillance (The Protect America Act). I just don't agree with the defense of this law by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said the NSA “has a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the conversation is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, or working in the support of al Qaeda.”
    That was painting with a broad brush and caused immediate concern among elected officials, civil rights activists, legal scholars and the public at large about the legality and constitutionality of the program and the potential for abuse.
    I'm not the only person who thinks Bush's claim that the NSA only spied on Americans making phone calls to people with known al Qaeda links, stinks. What the heck is a “known link?” Would that be a journalist who has a contact inside al Qaeda?
    Now that Tice has re-opened Pandora's Box about the Bush administration's spying on journalists, I have two questions for you, President Obama.
    Are you aware of this illegal spying on American journalists, private citizens, and organizations?
    As It Stands, what are you going to do about it?