NBC's Andrea Mitchell framed the debate about the domestic spying scandal as a choice between civil liberties and safety, echoing arguments put forth by the Bush administration.
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On the December 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and on the December 21 broadcast of NBC's Today, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell framed the debate surrounding revelations that the White House had authorized domestic wiretapping of U.S. citizens as a choice between privacy and civil liberties on the one hand and protection from terrorist attacks on the other. Mitchell's characterization echoed arguments put forth by Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush and forwarded by NBC Today host Katie Couric, as Media Matters for America noted.
During a Hardball segment focusing on Bush's authorization of secret wiretaps of American citizens without court approval, Mitchell asked former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), "What do you think Americans really need to be worried about more? A terror attack or someone going into their hard drive and intercepting their emails?" Similarly, Mitchell began a Today report also focusing on the secret wiretaps by asking rhetorically, "Are Americans willing to give up their privacy to help track down terrorists?" After interviewing former presidential adviser David Gergen, who asserted that the revelations of Bush's wiretapping program would negatively affect the American public's trust in government, Mitchell stated: "But the White House is betting that people are willing to pay any price if they think it will avoid another 9-11."
From the December 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MITCHELL: What do you think Americans really need to be worried about more? A terror attack or someone going into their hard drive and intercepting their emails?
GRAHAM: Well, I think they need to be more concerned about the effect of the United States seeing a retreat from our basic values at the same time we are trying to ask the countries from which the terrorists come to adopt principles of democracy and liberty. Wouldn't it be ironic if at the same time, through our initiative, we were able to establish a democracy in Iraq, but we were losing our basic liberties and freedoms here at home?
From the December 21 broadcast of NBC's Today:
COURIC: Now to the war on terror. Tuesday, Vice President Cheney defended the administration and its secret spying, saying, quote, "It's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years." But some are wondering if Americans are losing their civil rights in the process. Here's NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
MITCHELL: Are Americans willing to give up their privacy to help track down terrorists? Since 9-11, the administration now admits it has been spying on Americans for the first time without court permission. The president says it's all necessary and legal.
GERGEN: The tragedy here is that from now on, many Americans will believe that the government is listening to their phone calls and is reading their emails, even when the government may not be doing that.
MITCHELL: Partly, Gergen says, because images of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo have an impact on Americans.
GERGEN: There's been such a pattern of secrecy and then revelation about torture, about paying off journalists and other things that the Bush administration has engaged in. I think that's only inflated this story about the wiretapping.
MITCHELL: But the White House is betting that people are willing to pay any price if they think it will avoid another 9-11. For Today, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.