On Special Report, Jim Angle falsely claimed that proposed revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would, for the first time, require the federal government to obtain a court order to intercept the communications of terrorism suspects abroad when they call the United States. Angle asserted that "even requiring warrants for terrorists calling the U.S. from abroad is a major departure, something the law has never required since it was passed some 30 years ago." In fact, with few exceptions, FISA, as originally enacted in 1978, required the government to obtain a court order to conduct "electronic surveillance," which FISA defines in part as "the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States." It was only in August that Congress categorically excluded from the warrant requirement any "surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States." That exclusion is due to expire in February 2008.
In a column, Los Angeles Times senior editorial writer Michael McGough asserted that "it is far from a slam dunk ... that a Gore administration wouldn't have done at least some of the things for which Bush has been pilloried" and that Gore "might well have followed suit after 9/11 with his own versions of the Patriot Act and the Terrorist Surveillance Program." However, McGough did not mention Gore's strong criticism of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program or that Gore has called for the repeal of the Patriot Act.
On Special Report, Brit Hume reported that "[t]he Senate Judiciary Committee's latest deadline for the White House to comply with its subpoena for documents relating to warrantless -- allegedly warrantless wiretaps has come and gone." Contrary to Hume's assertion, administration officials have admitted that the National Security Agency has engaged in warrantless wiretapping.
In writing about Karl Rove's August 15 appearance on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, New York Times reporter Patrick Healy reported that Rove claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton "opposed the USA Patriot Act, domestic surveillance programs and other antiterrorism measures." The Times did not note that Clinton, in fact, voted for both the original USA Patriot Act in 2001 and its reauthorization in 2006. Healy also misrepresented what Rove actually said when he falsely accused Clinton of opposing certain changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The New York Times and USA Today uncritically reported President Bush's attacks on Democrats over congressional investigations of Alberto Gonzales, but neither newspaper noted that criticism of Gonzales has been bipartisan: numerous Republicans have called for Gonzales' resignation, several have criticized the administration's lack of cooperation with congressional investigations, and senior Republican Judiciary Committee members have joined Democrats in voting to authorize subpoenas of Bush administration officials as part of investigations involving Gonzales.
In their reports on subpoenas issued by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, media outlets uncritically quoted the White House claim that "[i]t's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation" to suggest that Democrats were solely responsible for the committee's action. In fact, three Republicans voted with the Democrats to approve the subpoenas.