Krauthammer: After the first domestic surveillance leak, "we learned about the NSA listening in on Al Qaeda calling the U.S."May 19, 2006 5:32 PM EDT ››› SIMON MALOY
On the May 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that after The New York Times first publicly disclosed the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program in December 2005, "we learned about the NSA listening in on Al Qaeda calling the U.S." Krauthammer's statement echoed the Bush administration's oft-made claim that the surveillance program is limited to, as President Bush put it in his December 17, 2005, radio address, "international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations." In fact, media reports have revealed that the NSA has eavesdropped on the communications of thousands of U.S. residents with no links to terrorism, and that the NSA has captured purely domestic calls.
As Media Matters for America noted, The Washington Post reported on February 5 that "[i]ntelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat." The New York Times reported on January 17 that "[m]ore than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials," some of whom knew of the domestic spying program, "said the torrent of tips [from NSA wiretapping] led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive." Also, the Times reported on December 21, 2005, that some purely domestic calls had been intercepted by the program.
From the May 18 edition of Special Report:
KRAUTHAMMER: But, you know, it's interesting because this is ostensibly about the CIA, which is what his [CIA director nominee Gen. Michael V. Hayden] job is supposed to be. But these hearings really are a surrogate for a debate about the NSA, which is what he headed before. And he headed it at the time of the two programs that everybody has been talking about and concerned about.
When the first leak happened, and we learned about the NSA listening in on Al Qaeda calling the U.S., the administration admitted it, came out and defended it, and won the national debate, the public opinion instantly and quickly, and the Democrats ran away.
But when the second leak appeared, which is just a week or two ago, about monitoring the pattern of phone calls in the United States, the administration has denied, or at least hasn't confirmed -- obviously, it won't deny it, but it won't, as Tony Snow danced around it in his briefing, he said issue, I won't confirm nor deny. So it hasn't defended itself on this.