NY Times falsely suggested that only Democrats believe domestic spying program is illegal

A story in The New York Times falsely suggested that only Democrats have challenged the legality of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program. But the Times itself has reported on Republican concerns about the program's legality.

In a March 3 article in The New York Times, reporter Eric Lichtblau suggested that only Democrats consider the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program to be illegal. But as noted in a number of Times stories -- including several by Lichtblau himself -- Republicans have also raised concerns about the program's legality.

In the article, Lichtblau wrote:

The developments reflected continued uncertainty in Congress over whether lawmakers should authorize the surveillance program, or seek to rein in an operation that Democrats contend is illegal.

But it is not only Democrats who contend the program is illegal, as the Times has previously reported. For example, a February 18 Times article stated:

Democrats and a growing number of Republicans say the program appears to violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Some Republicans are also skeptical of the Bush administration's assertion that it has the inherent constitutional authority to conduct the eavesdropping, and that Congress authorized the program when it passed a resolution after Sept. 11 giving Mr. Bush authority to use military force to defend the nation."

The following are other examples of reporting by The New York Times on Republicans who have taken issue with the legality of the domestic wiretapping program:

  • Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), February 17 (by Lichtblau and reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg):

But the DeWine proposal [a proposal by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) to explicitly authorize the wiretapping, without court warrants, but create small congressional subcommittees to oversee it] is unlikely to satisfy other critics of the program, including some Republicans, who say it must be brought within the scope of the intelligence court. Among them is Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is circulating legislation that would require the court to pass judgment on whether the wiretapping is constitutional.

''Unless they're prepared to have a determination on constitutionality as to their programs, window dressing oversight will not be sufficient,'' Mr. Specter said.

And also February 7 (by Lichtblau and reporter James Risen):

But while Democrats led the attack on the surveillance program, several Republican senators -- including Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham [SC], Sam Brownback [KS] and Arlen Specter -- also raised concerns. On the program's legality, Mr. Specter told the attorney general, ''You think you're right, but there are a lot of people who think you're wrong.''

And February 4:

Senate Republicans, too, are raising questions over the legal authority the White House has advanced to justify the spy program. Mr. Specter initially described the program as ''inappropriate,'' although he has softened his rhetoric in recent days.

And December 17, 2005 (by Lichtblau and Stolberg):

Mr. Specter and other lawmakers from both parties questioned the legality of Mr. Bush's executive order.

''The law prohibits this type of electronic surveillance,'' Mr. Specter said, ''and there are a lot of basic questions that need to be answered about how this program was authorized and used.''

''I want to know precisely what they did,'' he said. ''How N.S.A. [National Security Agency] utilized their technical equipment; whose conversations they overheard; how many conversations they overheard; what they did with the material; what purported justification there was -- and I use the word 'purported' to emphasize -- and we will go from there.''

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), February 8 (by Lichtblau):

A growing number of Republicans have called in recent days for Congress to consider amending federal wiretap law to address the constitutional issues raised by the N.S.A. operation.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for one, said he considered some of the administration's legal justifications for the program ''dangerous'' in their implications, and he told Mr. Gonzales that he wanted to work on new legislation that would help those tracking terrorism ''know what they can and can't do.''

''I think we do have to have judicial review,'' she said, adding, ''Whether it's the FISA approach or not I think remains in question, but it can't go on in perpetuity, and it can't be unfettered warrantless surveillance.''

  • Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), chairman of the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee, February 11:

Ms. Wilson said she decided to speak out this week because she had become increasingly “frustrated that the administration was not giving us the information we needed to do our job.” With Mr. [Attorney General Alberto R.] Gonzales unable or unwilling to answer questions at the Senate hearing, she said, there was no way to determine whether the surveillance law needed to be updated.

“I think the argument that somehow, in passing the use-of-force resolution, that that was authorizing the president and the administration free rein to do whatever they wanted to do, so long as they tied it to the war on terror, was a bit of a stretch,” she said. “And I don't think that's what most members of Congress felt they were doing.”