CBS' Assuras distorted Harman's domestic spying statement

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

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."

On the December 22 broadcast of CBS' The Early Show, CBS News national correspondent Thalia Assuras misrepresented a quote from Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), falsely reporting that Harmon expressed "support" for President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. Assuras claimed that Harman called Bush's recently revealed program "essential to U.S. national security." Harman did, in fact, state in her December 21 press conference that "a highly classified NSA foreign collection program" about which she had been "briefed since 2003" is "essential to U.S. national security." But as Media Matters for America has documented, Harman added that 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."

From the December 22 broadcast of CBS News' The Early Show:

ASSURAS: The heated controversy over the government's domestic spying without warrants also continue. James Robertson, one of the judges on the top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, which authorizes wiretaps, resigned in protest over the program. Sources tell CBS News three other judges are described as "deeply upset." Some lawmakers warned the program's revelation has caused damage.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R-MI): Many of the insights that we had into Al Qaeda, into their links in the United States, may now be gone.

ASSURAS: Support for the administration came from a surprising source: a Democrat, and key member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman. In a statement she said, "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security."

An onscreen graphic included an ellipse after the portion of Harman's statement that Assuras quoted but gave viewers no indication of what actually followed it.

From Harman's December 21 press release:

Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee, today issued the following statement:

"As the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed since 2003 on a highly classified NSA foreign collection program that targeted Al Qaeda. I believe the program is essential to US national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.

"Due to its sensitive nature, I have been barred from discussing any aspect of this program, and until the President described certain parts of it on Saturday, I have made no comment whatsoever.

"Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned by reports that this program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

Even before she issued her statement, Harman had expressed concerns about the surveillance program. On December 17, Harman and other congressional Democrats reportedly sent a letter to President Bush expressing concern that media accounts of the program appeared to "have gone beyond what the administration" told Congress. Harman was also one of five House Democrats who signed a December 18 letter requesting that Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) "take steps immediately to conduct hearings on the scope of Presidential power in the area of electronic surveillance." The letter stated that the signatories "believe that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people, but that intelligence must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation."

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