CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano uncritically reported a dubious statement by President Bush suggesting a link between a recent terror plot in Britain and the administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program. And host Wolf Blitzer did not identify the program as warrantless, although it is the administration's failure to obtain warrants to conduct surveillance on U.S. persons that is the issue in controversy and the reason a judge struck down the program.
On MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews again falsely suggested that critics of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program are opposed to all wiretapping of terrorist suspects. In fact, critics have accused the Bush administration of violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by conducting surveillance of U.S. citizens and legal residents without obtaining a warrant.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Lou Dobbs, and Kelli Arena characterized a judge's ruling that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program is unconstitutional as a serious blow to the administration's efforts to combat terrorists. But it's not at all clear that the administration must violate the law to protect the country or that warrantless domestic wiretapping has been effective in combating terrorists.
Despite several reports that the recently foiled London terrorist plot had no connections to the United States, The New York Times, CNN, and Fox News uncritically repeated Republican assertions that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program played a role in the plot's breakup.
An ABC World News report on a federal district judge's ruling that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program is unconstitutional featured only Bush administration officials and a senior research fellow from the conservative Heritage Foundation defending the "necessity" of the program. The report did not note that the program's effectiveness has been called into question.
Media outlets have uncritically reported the comments of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who, during interviews, have asserted that U.S. laws on detaining suspected terrorists should be modeled after British laws that allow the United Kingdom to detain a suspected terrorist for up to 28 days without charges. However, none of the media outlets noted the administration's expanded use of material witness warrants to detain people for indefinite periods.
Chris Matthews conflated Islamic terrorists with those "who may be politically on the left," and presented a false choice between "honoring civil rights" and "tap[ping]" terrorists' "phones," suggesting that "honoring civil rights" could lead to "the deaths of thousands of people." Matthews also discussed the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, in which his brother is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
An August 11 Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that the British government would not "recoil" from using "harsh or stressful questioning" when interrogating suspects recently arrested in connection with an alleged plot to blow up airliners. However, the United Kingdom has adopted the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the use of "torture" or "inhuman and degrading treatment."
In an August 13 Associated Press article, Nedra Pickler suggested that the controversial aspect of the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program is that it is secret, rather than that it bypasses the law requiring court warrants for such surveillance. The Washington Post's Josh White similarly referred to "secretly wiretapping [terrorism] suspects" as one of several "controversial Bush administration programs," without noting the specific nature of the controversy.
An AP article about a speech by RNC chairman Ken Mehlman uncritically reported his claim that, if in power, Democrats -- specifically Rep. Nancy Pelosi and DNC chairman Howard Dean -- would "surrender" the U.S. government's ability to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists. But Pelosi and Dean both have explicitly acknowledged the need for U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on suspected terrorists, although they have said that the government should conduct such surveillance in accordance with the law
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On Fox News and his radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that, because of criticism The New York Times has received for publishing a "terror finance story," the newspaper "announced ... it was cutting 25 percent of its work force." Based on figures provided in a Times article, the announced reductions amount to just over 2 percent of the work force. Similarly, on Your World, guest host David Asman falsely suggested the Times' cutbacks were a result of the public's reaction to the paper's recent reporting. In fact, the Times announced a plan to cut half its production staff by 2017 in September 2004, well before it reported on warrantless wiretapping or the Bush administration's bank-monitoring program.
In a July 18 article, New York Times staff writer Kate Zernike reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham is trying "to resist the White House when it comes to defining the treatment of people accused of being terrorists." But Zernike ignored Graham's controversial efforts to strip habeas corpus rights from the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay -- efforts that included an act of legislative deception that was specifically noted by the Supreme Court majority opinion in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.