Arguing that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is unconstitutional and should be abolished, a February 9 Wall Street Journal editorial used a variety of false and misleading statements to attack FISA and again defend the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program.
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed, "[Sen.] Pat Leahy opposes NSA [National Security Agency] intercepts of the enemy," referring to the NSA's warrantless surveillance program secretly authorized by President Bush in 2001. In fact, according to his statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 6, Leahy "agree[d] that we should be wiretapping Al Qaeda terrorists."
A February 9 Associated Press story left out important details of two incidents that purportedly link Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Following the lead of Fox News and The Washington Times editorial page, an article by the Associated Press adopted a variation of the White House terminology "terrorist surveillance program" to describe the Bush administration's domestic spying program.
On The 700 Club, senior reporter Dale Hurd concluded a news report by claiming that controversial cartoons perceived as anti-Islamic "seem to have unified the Muslim world against the West," but that "[i]t remains to be seen whether they [the cartoons] will also unify the West in defense of its civilization." But, contrary to Hurd's suggestion of unanimity in the Muslim world, many of the religious leaders and government officials who represent Muslims have condemned the widespread rioting that followed publication of the cartoons.
Fox News' Jim Angle repeated as fact President Bush's and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's explanation of Bush's 2004 remarks, in which he stated that "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order," and that "[w]hen we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Angle did not inform viewers that Bush's explanation -- that the statement applied only to roving wiretaps in the context of the USA Patriot Act -- is contradicted by his own words.
During an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney on PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, anchor Jim Lehrer missed numerous opportunities to challenge assertions Cheney made in defense of the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program.
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, attorneys David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey defended President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program by repeating the claim that the program monitors only the communications of "Al Qaeda operatives" either out of or into the United States and that its "domestic footprint" was "minimized." In fact, as Media Matters has previously noted, the program has reportedly cast a broad net and monitored communications of thousands of people with no connection to Al Qaeda.
Fox News reporters and anchors have increased their use of the Bush administration's term for its warrantless domestic spying program, which it calls a "terrorist [or terror] surveillance program," in their reporting and commentary. Some regional newspapers appear to be following Fox's lead.
MSNBC host Dan Abrams failed to challenge the assertion of Kris W. Kobach, a constitutional law professor and former counsel to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, that President Bush's controversial domestic spying program dealt only with "very targeted" calls. In fact, recent media reports indicate that the program has cast a broad net, monitoring thousands of people with no relationship to Al Qaeda.
In his nationally syndicated column, the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell drew a false comparison between the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and Bill Clinton's call for expanding anti-terror legislation following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In drawing the comparison, Bozell ignored key distinctions: Clinton publicly called for Congress to pass legislation; Bush secretly authorized a clandestine surveillance program without informing the public or seeking congressional approval.
USA Today reported that the Bush administration "has briefed congressional leaders on the details" of its warrantless domestic surveillance program, but it did not report that many Democrats who said they had been informed about the program also say that they were not told about its actual nature or extent.
Reporting on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News said Gonzales "held his own." ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos agreed and added that, at times, "it got personal."
At least three reporters involved in an October 2003 Time magazine article that suggested Karl Rove was no longer under suspicion of outing Valerie Plame, and that contained Scott McClellan's denial that Rove was involved, knew at the time of the article that Rove had, in fact, outed Plame.
Bill O'Reilly claimed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was "set up to prevent ... criminal abuses" and does not address wartime. In fact, FISA contains specific wartime provisions.