AP, Fox failed to note U.S. attorneys supporting Patriot Act renewal were appointed by Bush

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

Both the AP and Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume reported on a White House event in which U.S. attorneys appeared and spoke in favor of President Bush's efforts to renew controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act. However, both media outlets omitted the fact that all of the U.S. attorneys participating are Bush appointees.

Both a January 4 Associated Press article and a January 3 segment on Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume reported on a White House event in which United States attorneys appeared and spoke in favor of President Bush's efforts to renew controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act. But in suggesting that there was something noteworthy in the U.S. attorneys' expression of support for the Patriot Act, both the AP and Special Report omitted a key fact: All of the U.S. attorneys who participated in the event are Bush appointees. They work for him. What would be noteworthy is if any had dissented.

In December, a bipartisan filibuster blocked a Patriot Act renewal bill supported by Bush and the U.S. attorneys who spoke.

Six Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys -- Ken Wainstein (District of Columbia), Carol Lam (Southern District of California), Michael Garcia (Southern District of New York), Roslynn Mauskopf (Eastern District of New York), Mary Beth Buchanan (Western District of Pennsylvania), and Debra Wong Yang (Central District of California) -- spoke at the January 3 White House press event. The press event followed a "meeting" between Bush and 19 U.S. attorneys -- all Bush appointees. Speaking to the press, Wainstein said that, during the meeting, Bush "asked us to give him our input about the importance of the Patriot Act to our investigations and our criminal cases and national security cases around the country."

The AP reported:

During a White House meeting with federal prosecutors Tuesday, Bush said lawmakers must act on a permanent renewal of the Patriot Act, which expanded the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers against suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers.

[...]

Later, outside the West Wing, prosecutors cited several cases in which the Patriot Act had played a crucial role, from staging an undercover sting on California weapons dealers attempting to sell Stinger missiles to securing convictions of major terrorist financiers in New York.

"We use it each and every day to protect our country against terrorists and criminals," said Ken Wainstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

The AP also quoted Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) as saying, "Bush should spend more time negotiating about the Patriot Act with Democrats and others on Capitol Hill and less on 'staged meetings with hand-picked participants' at the White House." The AP provided no explanation for Feingold's "hand-picked" comment.

On Special Report, Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler reported that, at the January 3 meeting, "the president armed himself with stories from some of the prosecutors who use the act every day," adding that Bush later "sent the prosecutors out to talk about the terrorist plots the act has helped them break up." Goler then played portions of comments by Lam and Buchanan but did not inform viewers that they, along with the rest of the participants, were nominated by Bush.

From the January 4 edition of Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume:

BRIT HUME (host): President Bush today resumed his effort to get Congress to renew the Patriot Act. The president says that act -- the key provisions of which are now set to expire early next month -- is a vital tool in the war on terror. Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler reports Mr. Bush called in some key allies to help him in that quest.

GOLER: Determined to break a filibuster blocking reauthorization of parts of the Patriot Act, the president armed himself with stories from some of the prosecutors who use the act every day.

BUSH [clip]: And I expect Congress to understand that we're still at war, and they gotta give us the tools necessary to win this war.

GOLER: Later, he sent the prosecutors out to talk about the terrorist plots the act has helped them break up.

[begin video clip]

LAM: Three individuals, weapons dealers, who were interested in taking Stinger missiles from undercover FBI agents and reselling them to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

BUCHANAN: An imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who had obtained explosive bombs and devices, and he planned to obtain hand grenades and blow up abortion clinics.

[end video clip]

GOLER: And not just terrorist plots, they said, but common criminal activity.

BUCHANAN [clip]: We used section 212 of the Patriot Act to rescue a 13-year-old child who had been taken from her home in Pittsburgh and abducted by a 38-year-old child molester.

By contrast, a January 4 USA Today article by David Jackson reported that "Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys from 14 states and the District of Columbia said the law [the Patriot Act] has helped them crack cases involving terrorist finances, weapons exchanged for drugs, and child abductions."

Similarly, a January 4 New York Times article reported:

Surrounded in the Roosevelt Room by 19 federal prosecutors, Mr. Bush said Congress was holding up renewal of the law because of politics.

"When it came time to renew the act, for partisan reasons, in my mind, people have not stepped up and have agreed that it's still necessary to protect the country," Mr. Bush said. "The enemy has not gone away - they're still there. And I expect Congress to understand that we're still at war and they've got to give us the tools necessary to win this war."

[...]

The United States attorneys, all Bush appointees summoned to Washington by the Justice Department, echoed Mr. Bush when they appeared en masse in front of television cameras moments later.

The U.S. attorneys mission statement notes that "United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate."

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