On ABC's Good Morning America, Roberts let Snow spin on domestic wiretapping

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Robin Roberts failed to challenge Tony Snow's false suggestion that Democrats oppose "listening in on terrorists." As Media Matters has repeatedly noted, critics of the administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program have not spoken out against "listening in on terrorists"; they have said only that the administration should act within the law and obtain warrants for such surveillance.

On the September 13 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, co-host Robin Roberts did not challenge White House press secretary Tony Snow's false suggestion that Democrats oppose "listening in on terrorists." When Roberts asked Snow if the president and the White House "agree[d] with" House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) suggestion that Democrats are "more interested in the rights of terrorists than in protecting the American people," Snow replied that "we tend not to vet statements of members of the House and Senate." Snow then stated that "one of the things he [Boehner] was doing was raising the question, 'OK, what do you want to do for security? Do you believe in listening in on terrorists? What do you think about the terrorist surveillance program [the Bush administration's name for its warrantless domestic wiretapping program]?' " Roberts did not follow up on either Snow's dodge of the question about whether the White House agreed with Boehner. Nor did she challenge Snow's suggestion that Democrats are opposed to "listening in on terrorists." In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, critics of the administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program have not expressed opposition to "listening in on terrorists," but have said only that the administration should act within the law, obtaining warrants to conduct domestic surveillance in compliance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In 2005, The New York Times revealed that the president had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in apparent violation of FISA, which requires court approval to conduct domestic electronic surveillance for foreign-intelligence purposes. On August 17, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled the NSA program to be unconstitutional in a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of several journalists, academics, and organizations.

Yet contrary to Snow's suggestion, no member of the Democratic leadership in Congress, no Democratic governor, and no Democratic Party official has said he or she opposes "listening in on terrorists," as Media Matters has noted (here, here, and here). Rather, critics of the program assert that the Bush administration is violating the law by conducting surveillance of U.S. citizens and legal residents without warrants from the FISA court.

Further, Roberts allowed Snow to dodge her question as to whether the "White House agree[d] with" Bohener's suggestion that Democrats are "more interested in the rights of terrorists than in protecting the American people." Snow responded that "we tend not to vet statements of members of the House and Senate," adding that "they [have] got their own ways of doing things." Snow also said that Boehner's remark "was one of these hypotheticals, and I know, I understand why people get upset about it," but then added: "[W]hat you find a lot of times is that when an issue doesn't break your way, complain about the way somebody else has framed it."

From the September 13 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

ROBERTS: Who's gonna keep us safe? That's something that Americans want to know, and it does get a little contentious at times. The Democrats are very upset over House Majority Leader John Boehner for the comments that he made recently saying that Democrats were soft on terrorism and terrorists. I want to play a bit of his sound bite and get your reaction to what he said.

BOEHNER [video clip]: Sometimes based on the votes that get cast, you wonder whether they're more interested in the rights of the terrorists than in protecting the American people.

ROBERTS: Are Democrats more interested in the rights of terrorists than protecting the American people? Of course, Democrats are a little outraged about that. [Does] [t]he president agree with a statement like that? [Does] [t]he White House agree with that?

SNOW: Well, we tend not to vet statements of members of the House and Senate. As you -- we've just pointed out, they've got their own ways of doing things. But it's interesting, what he was really talking about -- and, it was one of these hypotheticals, and I know, I understand why people get upset about it -- but one of the things he was doing was raising the question, "OK, what do you want to do for security? Do you believe in listening in on terrorists? What do you think about the terrorist surveillance program?" The president's asked for cooperation on that. How about what we do with people detained on the battlefield? How do we proceed to hold them in conditions that are acceptable to the American people, to question them, to get intelligence so that we can glean intelligence that's gonna save American lives? The president last week asked both parties to go ahead and step up and help out in those things. So Representative Boehner was raising those issues. And what you find a lot of times is that when an issue doesn't break your way, complain about the way somebody else has framed it. I would love to hear Democrats stepping up and saying, "Yeah, we want to help you out, Mr. President. We want to help you with the terrorist surveillance program. We are really eager to help you on this detention because we are impressed with the fact that you ended up getting intelligence that foiled numerous plots that were aimed at Americans or people around the world." So there are different ways to flip this, but what I find is you've got a lot of outrage, but you don't have a lot of argumentation. I'd like to see both sides engaging on the key issues here. And Democrats do have an opportunity, not merely to be heard, but to cooperate.

ROBERTS: We'll see what happens in the coming months. Tony Snow, thank you very much for your time this morning. We certainly do appreciate it. Have a good day.

SNOW: Thanks. You too.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Robin Roberts
Show/Publication
Good Morning America
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