NBC's Kelly O'Donnell: "Congress has not passed a specific law" on Bush wiretap programDecember 21, 2006 6:57 PM EST ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN
In reporting on President Bush's "argu[ment]" that "he had legal authority" to order warrantless domestic wiretapping, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell in a December 20 online article uncritically repeated the Bush administration's false claim that "Congress had not passed a specific law" on the subject.
In fact, as has been widely reported and as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, Congress has passed such a law: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant to wiretap U.S. citizens and legal residents inside the United States. The Bush administration's apparent violation of FISA has given rise to bipartisan condemnation.
The administration has argued it has the authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps despite FISA's prohibitions.
From O'Donnell's December 20 online article titled "Bush ready to move past 2006 'thumping' ":
Government secrets revealed
One of the president's secret programs made big news when it was leaked to the New York Times. The National Security Agency had been conducting wiretaps inside the U.S. without court approval. The president argued he had legal authority even though Congress had not passed a specific law.
The administration gave the operation the name "terrorist surveillance program" in an effort to increase public support and reduce fears that the government was spying on ordinary citizens. Critics expressed concern about the civil liberties and questioned whether the president went beyond the powers of the executive branch.