Milbank falsely suggested Barr was only attendee of conservative conference to criticize NSA spying program

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank falsely suggested that former Rep. Bob Barr was the lone conservative critic of the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic spying program to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Focusing largely on the negative reaction of CPAC attendees to Barr's criticism of the program, Milbank called Barr "the skunk at CPAC's party this year," while failing to report that David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsored CPAC, and another prominent conservative who spoke at the convention, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, have also criticized the warrantless surveillance program.

In his February 11 Washington Post column, titled "Bob Barr, Bane of the Right?" Dana Milbank falsely suggested that former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) was the lone conservative critic of the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic surveillance program to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held February 9-11 in Washington, D.C. Focusing largely on the negative reaction of CPAC attendees to Barr's criticism of the warrantless spying program, Milbank called Barr "the skunk at CPAC's party this year," while omitting the fact that the chairman of CPAC's sponsoring organization and at least one other prominent conservative speaker at the CPAC event have also criticized the program.

Milbank compared the reception Barr received at the event with that of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsored the CPAC event, writing that it was "no surprise" that at the event's silent auction, lunch with Barr reportedly netted only $75 because "fellow conservatives, for the most part, don't want to hear" Barr's position that the NSA spying program is illegal. But in reporting that, by comparison, dinner with Norquist netted $300, while a hunting trip with Keene brought in $1,000, Milbank left out a key fact, the inclusion of which would have undermined his thesis: Keene and Norquist both have joined Barr and the group Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB), to urge "lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law." According to PRCB's January 17 press release:

"Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping." -- Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform

"The need to reform surveillance laws and practices adopted since 9/11 is more apparent now than ever. No one would deny the government the power it needs to protect us all, but when that power poses a threat to the basic rights that make our nation unique, its exercise must be carefully monitored by Congress and the courts. This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose constitutional concerns." -- David Keene, chairman, American Conservative Union

From Milbank's Feb. 11 Washington Post column:

As of midday yesterday, a silent auction netted $300 for lunch with activist Grover Norquist, $275 for a meal with the Heritage Foundation president and $1,000 for a hunting trip with the American Conservative Union chairman. But lunch with former congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.), with an "estimated value" of $500, had a top bid of only $75 -- even with a signed copy of Barr's book, "The Meaning of Is [Stroud & Hall, 2004]," thrown in.

No surprise there. The former Clinton impeachment manager is the skunk at CPAC's party this year. He says President Bush is breaking the law by eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants. And fellow conservatives, for the most part, don't want to hear it.

As Media Matters for America has noted, numerous other prominent Republicans and conservatives have questioned the legality of the NSA program or otherwise raised concerns, including Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), John Sununu (R-NH), and Sam Brownback (R-KS, who was scheduled to speak at the CPAC event but reportedly canceled), as well as Bruce Fein, former deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Dana Milbank
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