Despite bipartisan outcry over NSA phone call database, CNN's Henry said, "Democrats obviously are already pouncing on this"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On CNN's Live From, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry suggested that only Democrats are criticizing the just-exposed National Security Agency program that collects phone call records of millions of Americans, as first reported by USA Today. Henry ignored immediate questions and criticism from prominent congressional Republicans such as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (PA), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (SC), and House Majority Leader John Boehner (OH).

On the May 11 edition of CNN's Live From, CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry suggested that only Democrats are criticizing the just-exposed National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects phone call records of millions of Americans, as first reported in a May 11 USA Today article. Echoing President Bush's own comments made hours after the USA Today story broke, Henry claimed that "the government appears to be ... collecting these records but not actually eavesdropping, not listening in on the calls, an important distinction [emphasis added]." Henry then said, "Nevertheless, Democrats obviously are already pouncing on this." But Henry ignored immediate questions and criticism from prominent congressional Republicans such as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (SC), and House Majority Leader John Boehner (OH).

As The Washington Post noted, Specter announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee "will be calling upon AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth as well as others to see some of the underlying facts" of the reported NSA phone call database. Specter added that "[w]hen we can't find out from the Department of Justice or other administration officials, we're going to call on those telephone companies to provide information to try to figure out exactly what is going on."

An April 11 Associated Press article also noted the skepticism of Boehner and Graham. The article quoted Boehner: "I don't know enough about the details except that I am willing to find out because I'm not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information." Similarly, Graham asked: "The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?"

Henry's comment stressing that the NSA is "not actually eavesdropping" reflects a comment Bush made shortly after the story broke. Without confirming or denying the existence of the NSA data collection efforts, Bush said, "[T]he government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval."

From the May 11 edition of CNN's Live From:

BUSH [video clip]: We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to Al Qaeda and their known affiliates. So far, we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil. As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy

HENRY: Now the president was referring to an important distinction here, which is that the government appears to be -- again, he didn't confirm it, but based on the USA Today report -- collecting these records but not actually eavesdropping, not listening in on the calls, an important distinction. Nevertheless Democrats obviously are already pouncing on this. This is likely to ignite an even bigger firestorm than already expected for the confirmation hearings that could begin as early as next week for the president's pick to be CIA director, Michael Hayden.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Ed Henry
Show/Publication
Live From...
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