A February 6 New York Times article by reporter Scott Shane reprinted, without challenge, a Republican senator's defense of President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, failing to note reports that, contrary to Sen. Pat Roberts's claims, the Bush program has intercepted the communications of people in the United States with no apparent connection to Al Qaeda.
An International Herald Tribune article -- also published on The New York Times' website -- asserted that some Democrats who had been briefed on the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program before it was publicly revealed "say" they "expressed concerns or objections" at the time -- suggesting that their claims are the only evidence that they did in fact express concern. The report ignored a letter written more than two years ago by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee describing his "lingering concerns" about the program.
During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Fox News' Chris Wallace failed to challenge Gen. Michael Hayden when he defended the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program by claiming that in order to undertake domestic surveillance without a warrant, the National Security Agency must have evidence "in the probable cause range." Hayden's statement appears to be in direct contradiction to an earlier statement he made, in which he said the program requires a "reasonable basis" standard that he admitted is "a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant."
Stating on Meet the Press that Americans support President Bush's domestic spying program, Tim Russert selectively cited data from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll to prove his point. Russert cited a question about whether people support Bush's "approach" to the domestic spying program, while ignoring poll questions regarding privacy concerns raised by the program and whether warrants should have been obtained before wiretapping.
Fox News' Jim Angle falsely claimed that Democrats initially objected to the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program because they opposed eavesdropping on people believed to be tied to terrorist activity but then made a "shift in strategy" to argue, as Charles Krauthammer put it, "a narrow issue of legality." Krauthammer further suggested that Democrats engaged in a "wholesale retreat" after recognizing that "opposing the idea of listening in on an Al Qaeda call into the U.S. is not a political winner."
Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle repeated the discredited claim that the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic surveillance program led to the arrest of Al Qaeda accomplice Iyman Faris, a naturalized U.S. citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. However, a January 17 New York Times report indicated that information gleaned from the warrantless NSA eavesdropping did not play "a significant role" in Faris's capture.
A Washington Times editorial on President Bush's State of the Union address adopted the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program, dubbing it the "terrorist surveillance program."
During an interview with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, CNN Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena failed to question Gonzales about his 2005 confirmation hearing, in which he responded to a question from Sen. Russ Feingold about whether the president could authorize warrantless domestic wiretaps. At the hearing, Gonzales suggested that Feingold had described a "hypothetical situation," despite the fact that the warrantless surveillance program had been in place since 2001 and that President Bush had reauthorized it numerous times.
CNN national security correspondent David Ensor suggested that Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV was disingenuous in his criticism of the Bush administration's apparent failure to fully inform Congress about its warrantless domestic surveillance program because he had been briefed on the program in 2003. But Ensor failed to note that, immediately after being briefed, Rockefeller wrote a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney expressing strong reservations about the program and restrictions on information he needed to evaluate it.
Bill O'Reilly again denied that he endorsed an Al Qaeda attack on San Francisco.
NBC's Tim Russert falsely suggested that the members of Congress who escorted President Bush into the House chamber prior to the State of the Union address had all been briefed on the warrantless domestic surveillance program. In fact, only three of the 20 lawmakers on the "escort committee" received briefings on the controversial program prior to its public disclosure. Furthermore, members of Congress from both parties have challenged the adequacy of those briefings.
Appearing on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank repeated President Bush's recent defense of statements he made in 2004 suggesting that the government does not engage in surveillance without obtaining a warrant. Milbank said that Bush had been referring only to "roving wiretaps" in the context of the USA Patriot Act, and not to all domestic wiretapping. While that is the context in which Bush was speaking, what he actually said referred to all wiretapping activity, even while he was secretly authorizing warrantless wiretaps.
Following President Bush's State of the Union address, various media figures described his defense of domestic eavesdropping as "strong," "vigorous," and "fierce." But they failed to note the numerous inaccuracies Bush employed in justifying the surveillance program, whose legality has been challenged not just by Democrats, but by Republicans and some prominent conservative legal scholars as well.
Immediately following the State of the Union address, Chris Matthews praised the "strong statements" that President Bush made defending his domestic spying program without correcting Bush's discredited suggestion that two 9-11 hijackers could have been caught if the program had existed. Matthews also said that the criticism of the program was defined by partisanship, despite the fact that the program has been questioned by both Democrats and Republicans.
A column by U.S. News & World Report senior writer Michael Barone mischaracterized the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, dismissing the "hue and cry" from "the mainstream media and some Democrats" over its alleged illegality. However, numerous Republicans and conservatives have also criticized and expressed concern over the program.