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."
During a monologue on Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the Transportation Security Administration, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners of his February 6 show: "Pat Leahy opposes NSA [National Security Agency] intercepts of the enemy." Limbaugh was 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."
Leahy said that his concerns with the spy program center on the lack of congressional or judicial oversight: "Congress has given the president authority to monitor these messages legally, with checks to guard against abuses when Americans' conversations and email are being monitored. But instead, the president has chosen to do it illegally, without those safeguards."
Republicans have also echoed Leahy's concerns. On the same day as Leahy made his statement to the Judiciary Committee, chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), advising Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, said:
SPECTER: I hope you will give weighty thought to taking this issue to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court lock, stock, and barrel. Let them see the whole thing and let them pass judgment, because if they disagree with you, it's the equilibrium of our constitutional system which is involved. And the Al Qaeda threat is very weighty, but so is the equilibrium of our constitutional system.
Additionally, Bruce Fein, who served as associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan and was a former Republican counsel during the Iran-Contra hearings, wrote in a December 28 Washington Times column, "Congress should insist the president cease the spying unless or until a proper statute is enacted or face possible impeachment. The Constitution's separation of powers is too important to be discarded in the name of expediency." Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) wrote in an article (subscription required) in the January 9 issue of Time magazine:
Exactly like Nixon before him, Bush has ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct electronic snooping on communications of various people, including U.S. citizens. That action is unequivocally contrary to the express and implied requirements of federal law that such surveillance of U.S. persons inside the U.S. (regardless of whether their communications are going abroad) must be preceded by a court order.
From the February 6 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Now, here is -- here's the Pat Leahy [sound] bite that the caller, Tom from Denver, referred to.
LEAHY [audio clip]: My concern is when we see peaceful Quakers being spied upon; when we see babies and nuns who can't fly on airplanes because they're on a terrorist watch list put together by your government."
LIMBAUGH: What in the world does this have to do with this program? That has more to do with these bumbling people at the -- at the Transportation Security Authority, or the TSA, whatever that is. You know, waving wands while -- while -- while real potential targets are waved right through. Ra -- waging -- waving these -- these wands over nuns and babies. Senator, this is -- this is absolutely pathetic, and just to use these hearings to make more political points has nothing to do with the purpose of the hearings. Pat Leahy, folks, has been in the Senate for some 30 years, and for 30 years, Pat Leahy's always lamenting how somebody else hasn't done enough of this or that. Today, he's trashing a president who's done more to fight terrorism than any president in history. Pat Leahy, on the other hand, is always complaining that somebody hadn't done enough of this or that, opposes the Patriot Act. Pat Leahy opposes aggressive interrogation. Pat Leahy opposes long detentions of terrorist suspects. Pat Leahy opposes NSA intercepts of the enemy. It's time to ask what does Senator Leahy support other than his "Al Qaeda bill of rights." He is wasting one of one hundred seats in the U.S. Senate.