Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes falsely claimed that public polling shows "support" for the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic spy program. In fact, an AP/Ipsos poll released January 6 shows that 56 percent of Americans said the Bush administration "[s]hould ... be required to get a warrant from a judge before monitoring phone and internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists."
Appearing as a panelist on the January 8 broadcast of Eye on Washington, a political talk program that airs on CBS affiliate WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., Weekly Standard senior writer Stephen F. Hayes falsely claimed that public polling shows "support" for the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic spy program. In fact, an Associated Press/Ipsos poll released January 6 shows that a majority of Americans, 56 percent, said the Bush administration "[s]hould ... be required to get a warrant from a judge before monitoring phone and internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists." Forty-two percent said that Bush "should ... be allowed to monitor such communications without a warrant," and the remaining 2 percent were not sure.
As The New York Times first revealed on December 16, President Bush issued a secret presidential order -- which he said he reauthorized "more than 30 times" -- shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The order permitted the NSA to eavesdrop on international phone and email communications that originate from or are received within the United States and to do so without the court approval normally required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Media conservatives have been quick to cite flawed polling to suggest that the majority of Americans support the Bush administration's use of warrantless spying, as Media Matters for America has previously documented. Notably, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, CNBC host Lawrence Kudlow, and conservative radio host Michael Reagan all referenced a December 28 Rasmussen poll -- showing that 64 percent of Americans believe "the National Security Agency [should] be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States" -- to illustrate an alleged majority support for Bush's spy program. However, this poll did not specifically ask if the NSA should be allowed to wiretap without court-approved warrants, which is the main source of criticism of Bush's program.
On January 6 -- two days before Hayes's Eye on Washington appearance -- the AP released the results of the AP/Ipsos poll, making Hayes's claim that "[p]olls show that people generally support him [Bush] on the wiretap issue" even more inaccurate than the claims of those who cited the flawed Rasmussen poll. The AP/Ipsos poll interviewed 1,001 adults from January 3-5. The poll's margin of error is 3.1%.
SALETAN: Yeah. There's not much he [Bush] can do. He doesn't have any money. I mean, they're out of money so he can't do it. Furthermore, he's a Republican. He generally does believe in smaller government, so it's not like he's aching to spend a lot more money to help you. So, he's going to have to go back to what Steve is talking about: foreign policy; national security; wave the flag; attack Democrats standing in the way of the [USA] Patriot Act; you know, "If you're really an American, you'll stand with me." But that's not going to work anymore. Part of it is the Iraq problem. Part of is the whole National Security Agency -- the surveillance issue. So, people are going to start to distrust people who -- politicians who stand up and say, I'm doing this for your good.
HAYES: Polls show that people --
PAGE: Well, if you think about --
HAYES: Polls show that people support him on that. Polls show that people generally support him on the wiretap issue. I think the more that he talks about foreign policy, the better off he does, largely because people will support him, and I think one doesn't have to be a cynic to think that he's going to talk about foreign policy to gain in the polls.