Fox News' David Asman falsely claimed that "the one poll we've seen" on the National Security Agency (NSA) program to collect phone call records of tens of millions of Americans "shows that over 60 percent, a big majority, believe this is not spying, that it is not violating Americans' rights." Asman was presumably referring to a flawed Washington Post/ABC News poll that indicated that 63 percent of respondents said the program is "acceptable." However, Asman ignored the fact that USA Today/Gallup and Newsweek have each released polls on the topic indicating that a majority of Americans disapprove of the reported data collection program.
On Inside Washington, Newsweek assistant managing editor Evan Thomas claimed that "[y]ou cannot have an open society and an effective spy service."
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On Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume compared a recent USA Today/Gallup poll -- which found that a majority of respondents disapprove of the National Security Agency's (NSA) reported collection of Americans' telephone records -- with an earlier Washington Post/ABC News poll -- which found that 63 percent of respondents said the program was acceptable. Hume told viewers that "USA Today's poll question does not mention that the NSA database program does not involve listening to or recording telephone conversations, while the Post poll question did mention that." However, Hume did not mention that a Newsweek poll found that even after being told that the program does not involve "listen[ing] to calls," a majority of respondents said the program "goes too far."
In a profile of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, President Bush's nominee for director of the CIA, Time magazine senior editor Nancy Gibbs wrote that Hayden "was credited with so effectively defending the National Security Agency's no-warrant wiretapping program after it was exposed in December that he helped turn a simmering scandal into a political win for the Administration." However, Gibbs's reporting omitted a key point: In defending the surveillance program, Hayden made statements that were mutually inconsistent and that contradicted those of other administration officials.
A Weekly Standard editorial criticized the Bush administration for not hyping "data-mining," demonstrated by the National Security Agency's reported data collection program, as "a crucial tool against unknown mass-murderers." The editorial offered little to justify the claim that "data-mining" is "a crucial tool," though there are experts who question the utility of "data-mining" in terrorism investigations -- specifically the type of "data-mining" the in which NSA is allegedly engaged.
Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron suggested that "the idea that so many Democrats are complaining about the NSA programs without really knowing what they are is precisely why so many Republicans say Democrats just aren't serious about security."
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Media Matters documents the misleading or false claims advanced by media figures and Bush administration supporters in the wake of news that the National Security Agency had since 2001 been secretly collecting records of phone calls made by millions of Americans.
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A Washington Post/ABC News poll on the National Security Agency program to collect phone call records of tens of millions of United States residents found that 63 percent of respondents found the program acceptable. The poll question claimed that the NSA is not "listening to or recording the conversations" captured by the data collection program, but a Post article reported that the program is related to NSA's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program.
On CNN's Live From, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry suggested that only Democrats are criticizing the just-exposed National Security Agency program that collects phone call records of millions of Americans, as first reported by USA Today. Henry ignored immediate questions and criticism from prominent congressional Republicans such as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (PA), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (SC), and House Majority Leader John Boehner (OH).
NBC's Lisa Myers and CNN's David Ensor both asserted that data collected by the National Security Agency through a just-exposed program include only "phone calls made and received, but not customers' names and addresses." But they failed to inform viewers about a key point made by USA Today, which broke the story -- that the NSA can easily obtain this information through other databases.
On cbsnews.com's Public Eye weblog, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod responded to a Media Matters for America item noting his mischaracterization of the debate over the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program. In his response, however, Axelrod continued to misrepresent the "general" debate as one over "electronic surveillance." In doing so, Axelrod sets up the two sides of the debate in precisely the manner advocated by the program's defenders: those in favor of the "electronic eavesdropping of terrorists," as he characterized the debate in the original report, versus those opposed. But contrary to administration accusations, no one has come out in opposition to electronic eavesdropping in general, and certainly not to spying on terrorists.
On PBS' The NewsHour, host Jim Lehrer failed to challenge Rep. Heather Wilson's (R-NM) misleading assertions regarding the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program and CIA director nominee Gen. Michael V. Hayden, an architect of the program and one of the administration's point people in defending it.
CBS Evening News correspondent Jim Axelrod, reporting on CIA-director nominee Gen. Michael V. Hayden's forthcoming Senate nomination hearings, noted that "[t]he White House believes it wins any time there's a debate on electronic eavesdropping of terrorists and would welcome the grand stage for Hayden to defend" the Bush administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program. However, the debate over the surveillance program is not a question of whether the government can conduct "electronic eavesdropping of terrorists," but rather whether the government can conduct warrantless surveillance of residents of the United States in apparent violation of federal statute.
In a May 5 online article, Time magazine reporters Mike Allen and Timothy J. Burger wrote that the Bush administration's controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program targets domestic phone calls "if one of the parties has known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations." In fact, media reports have revealed that the NSA has monitored the communications of thousands of people with no relationship to Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.