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July 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Raising new concerns about the collection of metadata concerning contacts between reporters and their sources, the McClatchy newspaper chain on Tuesday asked the Obama administration to explain New Zealand news reports that U.S. intelligence agencies tracked the phone records of a New Zealand journalist who reported on “possible war crimes” committed by New Zealand special ops forces while handling Afghan detainees. The McClatchy letter said that the reports were particularly alarming given the fact that the New Zealand military was unhappy with journalist Jon Stephenson’s reporting and may have sought to identify his sources. “If the reports are accurate,” the McClatchy letter said, “the U.S. Government’s facilitation of such retaliatory monitoring of a reporter would be a serious breach of both the constitutional protection of newsgathering and the statutory limits imposed on the collection and use of communications information by intelligence agencies.” The report first appeared in the Sunday Star Times of Auckland, which said that the New Zealand military also obtained from U.S. intelligence sources cellular phone metadata from Stephenson’s “associates” and that the information provided a “tree” of links between Stephenson and his contacts. Meanwhile, in a commentary on the conviction of Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, Dan Gillmor, a columnist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, commented, “The Obama administration’s war on leaks and, by extension, the work of investigative reporters who dare to challenge the most secretive government in our lifetimes, has been unrelenting. … We are, more and more, a society where unaccountable people can commit unspeakable acts with impunity. They are creating a surveillance state that makes not just dissent, but knowledge itself, more and more dangerous.”