Reporting on Senate hearings questioning warrantless wiretapping, 9News neglected to mention judge ruled Bush program unconstitutional

9News' Bob Kendrick reported on U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Senate testimony regarding the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, but he failed to mention that the program has been ruled unconstitutional and did not note the controversy surrounding it.

Reporting on U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Bush administration's controversial warrantless wiretapping program, 9News at 5 p.m. co-anchor Bob Kendrick on January 18 stated that "[t]he president secretly authorized the program shortly after the 9-11 terror attacks." But Kendrick failed to note that a judge has ruled the program unconstitutional, and he did not mention the widespread criticism of the program, including doubts about its effectiveness.

From the January 18 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

KENDRICK: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was grilled today about the government's domestic spying program. That story tops our look at “America Today.”

Gonzales fielded questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The president secretly authorized the program shortly after the 9-11 terror attacks. The Justice Department announced yesterday that a secret court will now determine whether warrants will be issued to conduct surveillance of terror suspects. Senators want to know why it took so long to put the program under court review.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, the surveillance program first was revealed in December 2005, when The New York Times reported that, according to unnamed government officials, “President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.” Colorado Media Matters further noted that Bush's bypass of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) prompted strong objections from Democrats and Republicans. FISA, except as otherwise specifically provided, requires the government to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on United States citizens and lawful residents in the United States.

On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the administration's wiretapping program was implemented in violation of FISA and the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution. Taylor further held that the program violated the constitutionally mandated separation of powers between Congress and the president. The Justice Department is appealing that decision.

9News also failed to note that a number of law enforcement and intelligence officials reportedly have questioned the program's effectiveness. As Media Matters for America has noted, a January 17, 2006, New York Times article reported that “current and former officials” have stated that “virtually all” of the leads generated by the National Security Agency (NSA) program “led to dead ends or innocent Americans.” Similarly, a February 5, 2006, Washington Post article reported that unnamed “current and former government officials” told the paper that "[i]ntelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat."

As a January 18 Associated Press article noted, "[u]ntil last week, the National Security Agency conducted domestic surveillance of people suspected of links to al-Qaida without court warrants" pending the NSA's According to the AP, however, the Justice Department is now “considering whether to ask a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based appellate court to dismiss the case,” presumably because the FISA court assumed oversight authority over the program via a January 10 order. Moreover, the AP reported, on January 17, “the [Bush] administration announced it would allow judicial review” over domestic surveillance requests -- a maneuver The Chicago Tribune said “appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt Democratic efforts to investigate the program.”