Fox's Angle distorted Rep. Harman's statements on warrantless spy program

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Fox News' Jim Angle misrepresented comments by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) to suggest that she was satisfied with the Bush administration's briefing of Congress on the use of domestic surveillance when, in fact, she has explicitly said that the surveillance program "goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

On the December 21 editions of both Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson and Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle misrepresented remarks by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) to falsely state that she agreed with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra's (R-MI) positive assessment of the Bush administration's congressional briefings on its use of domestic surveillance, without judicial oversight, on U.S. persons. By omitting a portion of Harman's statement, Angle indicated that she agreed with Hoekstra's assessment of the briefing sessions that "as we walked out in a bipartisan basis, we thought that this was essential and a necessary and the right thing to do to keep America safe." In fact, in her comments, Harman explicitly expressed concern that the surveillance program "goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

While reporting on responses of members of Congress to Bush's domestic spy program on Special Report, Angle aired a clip of a December 21 press conference in which Hoesktra discussed the intelligence briefings on the National Security Agency (NSA) spy program that he and other members of Congress, including Harman, received. Hoesktra -- who has only been briefed on the topic since becoming chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in August 2004 -- said, "as we walked out [of the intelligence briefings] in a bipartisan basis, we thought that this [domestic spying] was essential and a necessary and the right thing to do to keep America safe." Angle continued, stating:

ANGLE: His Democratic counterpart, Jane Harman, seems to agree, though she expressed some concerns about accounts in media reports. She said in a statement, "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

But Angle misrepresented Harman's "concerns" about media reports regarding the spy program by cropping Harman's quote. According to the Los Angeles Times, Harman's full statement regarding the warrantless surveillance programs expressed concern that the NSA program implemented went beyond the scope of what congressional leaders had been briefed on.

A December 22 Los Angeles Times article reported Harman's full statement:

Among those briefed on the spy program was Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, who said Wednesday that she approved of the program as it was described to her, but that she had new reservations.

"I have been briefed since 2003 on a highly classified NSA foreign collection program that targeted Al Qaeda. I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities," Harman said. "Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned by reports that this program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

In fact, Harman had previously expressed concerns about the recently revealed NSA activities. On December 17, the day after the New York Times broke the story, Harman and other Congressional Democrats reportedly sent a letter to President Bush expressing concern that media accounts "have gone beyond what the administration" briefed Congress. Harman also signed off, along with five other House Democrats, on a letter requesting that Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) "take steps immediately to conduct hearings on the scope of Presidential power in the area of electronic surveillance." The letter also stated that the signatories "believe that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people, but that intelligence must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation."

Also, on the December 21 edition of The Big Story, Angle again reported that Harman "seemed to agree" with Hoesktra about congressional leaders being in "bipartisan agreement" Angle also reported on the Big Story that Hoesktra claimed "when members of Congress were briefed about it, no one seemed to object." But Angle also neglected to mention in his Big Story report that at least two congressional Democrats -- Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) -- raised concerns about the spy program at the time they were briefed, though he did acknowledge on Special Report that Rockefeller previously disclosed his concerns about the program to Bush administration officials. On July 17, 2003 -- the day he first learned of the program -- Rockefeller apparently sent a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney in which he stated that he felt "unable to evaluate, much less endorse" the NSA domestic surveillance program. Pelosi also apparently wrote the administration upon initially hearing about the program, reportedly to express her concerns with the program. She has now requested that her letter and the administration's response be declassified and made publicly available.

From the December 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: Hoekstra is one of the few outside the administration with detailed knowledge of the NSA effort against Al Qaeda figures. He said the program was targeted at people overseas with terrorist links and that additional safeguards were imposed to protect innocent Americans. He also said when members of Congress were first briefed, there was no indication anyone objected.

HOEKSTRA [video clip]: That as we walked out in a bipartisan basis, we thought that this was essential and a necessary and the right thing to do to keep America safe.

ANGLE: His Democratic counterpart, Jane Harman, seems to agree, though she expressed some concerns about accounts in media reports. She said in a statement, "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

From the December 21 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

ANGLE: Well, you've had several things today. You've had Pete Hoekstra, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, came out and blasted the media for giving people a completely mistaken impression, as he put it, of what the NSA is doing. He says he has talked to a lot of people in his district and they have some notion that there's this massive domestic spying operation going on. He is one of the few people outside the administration that actually knows what is happening and knows the details of the program. He says that is simply not true. And he says when members of Congress were briefed about it, and we have a bite from him talking about this today, said when members of Congress were briefed about it, no one seemed to object.

HOEKSTRA [video clip]: I walked out of those meetings believing that as we walked out in a bipartisan basis, we thought that this was essential and a necessary and the right thing to do to keep America safe.

ANGLE: And a ranking Democrat on his committee seemed to agree with that today, though Jane Harman expressed some concerns. She said, "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities." So she seems to side with Chairman Hoekstra on this point, John [Gibson, host].

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
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