On America's Newsroom, Fox News' Steve Centanni conflated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the Protect America Act, asserting that President Bush is "urging Congress, pushing Congress, to pass the extension of FISA, or what he calls the Protect America Act." In fact, the 1978 FISA law established the federal government's underlying statutory authority to eavesdrop on the communications of suspected terrorists, while the PAA, among other things, expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans' domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant.
An AP article falsely suggested that the U.S. government does not currently have the authority to "eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists." The article also claimed, "The Senate has already passed its version of the measure to renew the law, which expired Feb. 16." In fact, what expired on February 16 was the Protect America Act's revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; the federal government still has the authority under FISA to listen in on the communications of suspected terrorists. The AP made similar false suggestions in a January report.
The subhead of a Washington Post article asserted that according to the U.S. government, some telecommunications firms are "not cooperating" with the Bush administration's surveillance efforts "for fear of liability" following the expiration of the Protect America Act. In fact, the article itself stated: "[A]dministration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program, according to an official familiar with the issue."
Bill O'Reilly falsely asserted that the ACLU's lawsuit over the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program "was basically an attempt ... to try to overcome a law which was passed by Congress, through the courts." In fact, the ACLU's lawsuit claimed, in part, that the program was in violation of several, as O'Reilly put it, "law[s] ... passed by Congress," including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and asked that the courts enforce those laws by ordering the program shut down.
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Robert Novak asserted that "[a] closed-door caucus of House Democrats" had "instructed Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call President Bush's bluff on extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to continue eavesdropping on suspected foreign terrorists" and that "Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said there was no danger in letting the FISA legislation lapse temporarily." In fact, FISA did not lapse or expire; what expired was the Protect America Act (PAA), which amended FISA. Additionally, Novak falsely stated that "the Democratic leadership Wednesday brought up another bill simply extending FISA authority, this time for 21 days" and that most of the Democrats who voted against the bill "intuitively oppose any anti-terrorist proposal." In fact, the House voted on an extension to the PAA, not FISA, and most of the Democrats who voted against the extension have supported other bills to allow surveillance of suspected terrorists.
Introducing an interview with Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, Chris Wallace asserted: "A law which gives President Bush powers to monitor communications among terrorism suspects expired at midnight." In fact, the expired PAA revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, did not simply give Bush "powers to monitor communications among terrorism suspects," but rather, among other things, the revisions expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans' domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant. Further, Wallace never mentioned that the government had the authority to listen in on the communications of suspected terrorists before Congress passed the PAA in August 2007 or that this authority continues despite the PAA's expiration.
NPR Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon and NPR newscaster Korva Coleman both falsely claimed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "expires tonight." In fact, what is set to expire are the Protect America Act's revisions to FISA; the government would retain all surveillance powers under FISA if the PAA expired.
Referring to the expiring revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Fox host Chris Wallace asserted that when Sen. John McCain "gets on the campaign trail and says, 'Look, here is a law that was going to provide the tools for the United States to be able to intercept communications of people who want to kill us and Congress went home, the Democratic Congress went home on a break' -- that's going to be a pretty effective weapon to use against the Democrats in the fall." In fact, contrary to Wallace's suggestion, the government has "the tools" to "intercept communications" of suspected terrorists.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams stated that the Republicans "left the House chamber to protest the Democrats' refusal to renew the foreign intelligence surveillance law, which expires this week." In fact, the House voted on a measure to extend the law in question, the Protect America Act, for another 21 days, but all 195 Republicans who voted on the matter voted against it. Moreover, the "foreign intelligence surveillance law" doesn't expire this week; the Protect America Act, giving the president broad authority to intercept communications involving people in the U.S. without a warrant, expires. Even without its renewal, the government has the authority to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance.
On Special Report, Carl Cameron reported that Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama "were both present for the debate and vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA] being tweaked a little bit today." However, if the FISA amendments bill becomes law, it would do far more than "tweak" FISA "a little bit" -- as The Washington Post reported, it "include[s] major revisions to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to issue warrants for domestic spying on suspects in terrorism and intelligence cases."
While discussing the "dogfight under way" over the Protect America Act, Fox News' Megyn Kelly falsely claimed that "this bill," which "allows the president to, among other things, surveil the conversations between American citizens and those suspected of being terrorists overseas" is "set to expire on Friday," February 15. In fact, only revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act made in August 2007 would expire; the government would retain the authority to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists.
In a Washington Times op-ed, Discovery Institute senior fellow John Wohlstetter falsely suggested that if the August 2007 Protect America Act (PAA) expires on February 1 as scheduled, the government will not be "allow[ed] ... to continue to monitor communications for counter-terror purposes." In fact, the government would retain the authority to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists after the PAA expires; only the PAA's revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would expire.
An item in The Washington Post, titled "Aye to Spy?" falsely claimed that "[t]he current FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] authorization will expire on Friday [February 1]." In fact, FISA does not "expire" on February 1; rather, the August 2007 revisions to FISA made through the Protect America Act are set to expire, but FISA will remain in effect.