For at least the third time, Fox News' Jim Angle repeated misleading characterizations of the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic surveillance program.
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On the May 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle repeated misleading characterizations of the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic surveillance program. Angle described the spy agency's warrantless wiretapping of Americans in the United States as a program which "penetrate[s] Al Qaeda communications" and "intercepts Al Qaeda communications from overseas." In fact, as Media Matters has previously noted, various news reports indicate that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping has ensnared thousands of Americans with no ties to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. Angle also claimed that the NSA collects "only [phone] numbers, no names and no listening to any conversations," and that the program is "different from" the Bush administration warrantless domestic surveillance program. Angle did not mention that, as Media Matters has previously pointed out, the NSA can easily obtain phone customers' names, addresses, and personal information by cross-referencing their phone numbers with other databases -- and the phone records analysis reportedly assists the NSA in obtaining targets for warrantless eavesdropping.
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: Unlike former CIA director George Tenet, [Sen. Carl] Levin [D-MI] argued, as he accused Tenet of shaping, distorting and exaggerating pre-war intelligence on Iraq to, as he put it, please the White House. In this hearing, [CIA director nominee Gen. Michael V.] Hayden vigorously defended the NSA programs to penetrate Al Qaeda communications, about which Levin continues to raise questions, but the senator seemed to set those concerns aside because Hayden had distanced himself from the Pentagon.
LEVIN: We saw some significant evidence of independence and objectivity in General Hayden. For instance, he stood up to Secretary [of Defense Donald H.] Rumsfeld when Secretary Rumsfeld wanted certain intelligence components to stay with the Department of Defense.
ANGLE: He praised Hayden for that, noting a four-star general stood up to the secretary of defense. The concern over an active duty officer keeping his distance from the Pentagon also concerned Republican Senator Kit Bond [R-MO].
BOND: I, as many of you know, strongly supported him. I had questions originally about his military background, but I believe he will be independent and maintain the independence of the Central Intelligence Agency.
ANGLE: But three of seven Democrats on the committee, Russ Feingold [D-WI], Evan Bayh [D-IN], and Ron Wyden [D-OR], voted against Hayden. Wyden said it was because he didn't like the general's public explanations of what the NSA has been doing.
WYDEN: There were several instances where I simply could not resolve what the general had said and then what later was brought out in newspapers like USA Today.
ANGLE: USA Today recently reported an effort to collect a history of phone call data using only numbers, no names and no listening to any conversations. That is different from the one leaked last December, which intercepts Al Qaeda communications from overseas. Wyden apparently expected Hayden to make clear back then that intercepting overseas calls wasn't the only NSA program in operation.
Doubts have been raised, though, about the accuracy of the USA Today story.