Following Fox, Time's Tumulty, Allen falsely reported Rep. Harman defended Bush's warrantless surveillance

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

An article in the January 9 edition of Time magazine by Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen misrepresented remarks by Rep. Jane Harman by falsely claiming that she had defended President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. In fact, in her statement, Harman said that the surveillance program "goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

An article in the January 9 edition of Time magazine by Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen misrepresented a December 21 statement by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) by falsely claiming that she had defended President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. In fact, in her remarks, Harman explicitly expressed concern that the surveillance program "goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed." Media Matters for America has documented prior instances in which Harman's statement was similarly misrepresented, first on Fox News and then on CBS' The Early Show.

Tumulty and Allen wrote:

G.O.P. strategists argue that Democrats have little leeway to attack on the issue because it could make them look weak on national security and because some of their leaders were briefed about the the National Security Agency (NSA) no-warrant surveillance before it became public knowledge. Some key Democrats even defend it. Says California's Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

However, the article omitted a crucial caveat from Harman's press release:

As the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, 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 US national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.

Due to its sensitive nature, I have been barred from discussing any aspect of this program, and until the President described certain parts of it on Saturday, I have made no comment whatsoever.

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.

As Media Matters previously noted, Harman had expressed concerns about the surveillance program before her December 21 remarks. On December 17, Harman and other congressional Democrats reportedly sent a letter to President Bush expressing concern that media accounts of the program appeared to "have gone beyond what the administration" told Congress. Harman was also one of five House Democrats who signed a December 18 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 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."

Media Matters has also noted instances in which media outlets similarly reported only that portion of Harman's statement to falsely claim that she expressed support for the NSA program. During the December 21 broadcasts of Fox News shows The Big Story with John Gibson and Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle said that Harman's statement evidenced bipartisan endorsement of the program; on December 22, CBS News national correspondent Thalia Assuras used the same portion of Harman's statement to claim that Harman expressed "support" for the warrantless domestic surveillance program.

From Tumulty and Allen's article in the January 9 issue of Time magazine, which was posted online on January 1:

From practically the moment news of the domestic-surveillance program hit the front page of the New York Times, the White House decided its strategy would be to "overwhelm the skeptics, not back off, not change anything about the program and really home in very strongly on the fact that this is a legitimate part of presidential warmaking power," says an adviser.

Bush launched a ferocious defense in his Dec. 17 weekly radio address, inviting in a network camera to capture the rare live delivery of the speech as he declared that the no-longer-secret surveillance program makes it "more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time."

G.O.P. strategists argue that Democrats have little leeway to attack on the issue because it could make them look weak on national security and because some of their leaders were briefed about the the National Security Agency (NSA) no-warrant surveillance before it became public knowledge. Some key Democrats even defend it. Says California's Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

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