Conservatives in the media claimed that Bush's authorization of domestic surveillance by the NSA without warrants is legal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, provisions of the law allow warrantless surveillance of foreign powers only, or for just 15 days following a declaration of war.
On Fox News' Special Report, author Ronald Kessler dismissed as "paranoid conspiracy theories" any suggestion that "the government wants to spy on us" or "go after anti-war protesters." However, according to a NBC Nightly News report, U.S. military intelligence agents are "collecting information on American peace activists and monitoring protests against the Iraq war."
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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CNN anchor Kitty Pilgrim claimed that Democratic criticism of President Bush's controversial decision to authorize wiretaps of American citizens without warrants "seems like a clear stand against the president on terror, a fairly risky move given that any day there could be another attack." In fact, the Democrats -- and several Republicans -- might argue that it's a "clear stand" in favor of complying with the law and "clear stand against the president" on civil liberties, not "terror."
The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, and Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, all reported the White House claim, made repeatedly at President Bush's press conference, that timeliness was the rational for the secret surveillance program, but did not report that current law allows for the government to get a warrant after the fact.
During a December 19 press conference, the White House press corps failed to challenge President Bush's evasive answers and, in some cases, prefaced their questions with praise.
A New York Times article about the renewal of the USA Patriot Act misleadingly characterized the Democratic position about the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), stating only that Democrats held up passage of the bill because of a dispute over labor rights. But it failed to note that Democrats were among the original and leading proponents of a cabinet-level DHS and that Republican opposition to the idea delayed the creation of the department for nearly twice as long as the Democrats' delay.
On the December 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer falsely suggested that President Bush's authorization of domestic spying -- without obtaining a search warrant -- was an "expedient action" rather than a "scandal" because the administration did "tell the court" after the fact that it was going to do so. In fact, the administration never alerted the relevant court to its surveillance of domestic phone calls.
On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert allowed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to repeatedly deflect his questions about the supposed legal basis for the domestic eavesdropping authorized by President Bush.
A review of the Nexis database of major U.S. newspapers -- consisting of 87 publications -- turned up 12 editorials that criticized President Bush's decision to allow secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens without a warrant, and none in support. Only the New York Post, which is not in the "major newspapers" database, wrote in favor of Bush's actions.
NBC Today host Katie Couric, in an interview with Tim Russert, characterized the debate about the Bush administration's domestic spying as a controversy between "legal analysts and constitutional scholars" on the one hand and "Americans" who "don't want another September 11" on the other.
In an op-ed in USA Today, Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and former Republican National Committee communications director, and National Review Online contributor Andrew McCarthy misrepresented an incident involving the interrogation of an Iraqi policeman with alleged ties to the insurgency.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrongly credited President Bush with having admitted mistakes in the administration's torture policy and previous opposition to the McCain amendment. In fact, Bush actually said only that he was "happy to work with him [McCain] to achieve a common objective."
During a discussion of Stanley "Tookie" Williams's then-impending execution and whether race is a factor in how the death penalty is applied for murder, Fox News host Sean Hannity and guest Larry Elder noted that eight out of 12 people who had been executed in California since the state reinstated capital punishment were whites. They offered this figure to rebut suggestions that race is a factor in how the death penalty is applied for murder, but they left out far more significant figures. A study published in the Santa Clara Law Review shows that those who kill whites are far more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill either blacks or Hispanics.
A Wall Street Journal editorial said that "numerous" investigations into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal concluded that the abuses "had nothing to do with interrogations." In fact, the opposite is true. The editorial also falsely claimed that a series of Bush administration memos that sought to loosen constraints on interrogators "sanctioned no specific interrogation techniques" and misrepresented an ABC News report on interrogation methods.