David Carlson, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said it would be "outrageous" and a "sad commentary on the state of our nation" if the government actually tracked the phone numbers called by journalists.
He was responding to a blog posting by ABC News reporters Richard Esposito and Brian Ross that they had been told by an unnamed "senior federal law enforcement official" that the government had gotten hold of calls placed by reporters working on stories about the CIA.
Like the flap over the National Security Agency's alleged database of calls, the allegation was not that the content of the conversations were being monitored but that information had been collected on who was being called.
"Having the intelligence community monitoring Americans' phone calls is not just outrageous," said Carlson in a statement. "It's frightening. When the government of any nation surveils its own citizens, freedom is in peril," he said.