In his speech before the National Security Agency, President Bush repeated a debunked claim, previously reported uncritically by some in the media, that his warrantless domestic spying program could have identified some of the 9-11 hijackers. Bush's repetition of the claim gives the media another opportunity to examine it critically in their reporting.
Many news outlets have uncritically repeated Gen. Michael Hayden's claim that the administration's warrantless spying program would have detected some of the 9-11 attackers.
Numerous media outlets repeated without challenge White House senior adviser Karl Rove's defense of President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program, in which Rove falsely claimed that "some important Democrats clearly disagree" with the proposition that "if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why." In fact, no leading Democrat has said that it is not in our interest to monitor Al Qaeda's communications.
CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve interviewed Tom Ridge, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about the department's decision not to raise the national threat level following Osama bin Laden's recent warning of future attacks against the United States. However, Meserve failed to ask Ridge an obvious question about his 2005 admission that, while head of the DHS, he had regularly been pressured by the Bush administration to raise the threat level even though he did not believe that the intelligence warranted it.
On MSNBC's Hardball, National Review White House correspondent Byron York claimed that Osama bin Laden, in a 2004 videotape, "suggested that ... if states vote against Bush, then we'll [Al Qaeda] protect you in the future." York's comment was apparently based on a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute indicating that bin Laden threatened the individual U.S. states not to vote for President Bush, but that translation has been disputed by numerous scholars and experts.
Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron said, regarding Osama bin Laden's offer of a truce in a newly released audiotape: "Even the chairman of the national Democratic Party, Howard Dean, said the U.S. should never negotiate with terrorists."
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A New York Times article characterized the National Security Agency's domestic spying program as "eavesdrop[ping] on some international calls involving people in the United States." However, the exact scope and dimensions of the program remain unclear, and there is evidence that it intercepted communications in which all parties were located in the United States.
Both the AP and Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume reported on a White House event in which U.S. attorneys appeared and spoke in favor of President Bush's efforts to renew controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act. However, both media outlets omitted the fact that all of the U.S. attorneys participating are Bush appointees.
Fox News' Stuart Varney said that The New York Times "will do anything to undermine President Bush politically, including undermining the security of the country," and then referred to an unscientific poll to suggest that 96 percent of Americans want warrantless wiretapping.
An Associated Press article on the temporary five-week extension of the USA Patriot Act failed to note that the White House had indicated that President Bush supported only a permanent extension of the act and would not sign "any short-term renewal."
CBS News national correspondent Thalia Assuras misrepresented a quote from Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), falsely reporting that Harman expressed "support" for President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. Media Matters for America has pointed out that Harman also said she is "deeply concerned by reports that this program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."
Ann Coulter stated in her December 21 column that "I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."
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."
Stephen Hayes and Rush Limbaugh cited the 1998 indictment of Osama bin Laden as proof of a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda despite a later, superseding indictment that specifically removed the reference to an Iraq-Al Qaeda link after prosecutors failed to substantiate that such a relationship existed.
On his radio program, Rush Limbaugh falsely suggested that the "9-11 Commission didn't say anything" about "[t]his whole picture of the U.S. as a torturous, torturing, barbaric institution." In fact, the 9-11 Commission's final report called for the U.S. government to "engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists."