The New York Times selectively quoted Rep. Jane Harman to falsely claim that she had defended President Bush's domestic spying program, leaving out her comment that that she was "deeply concerned by reports" that the program "in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."
A January 4 New York Times article by reporter Scott Shane selectively quoted a December 21 statement by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) to falsely claim that she "has defended" a National Security Agency (NSA) program authorized by President Bush that allows for domestic eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of people within the United States without court approval. But as Media Matters for America previously noted (here, here, and here), while Harman described the program -- as she said it had been conveyed to her -- as "essential to US national security," she also said that she was "deeply concerned by reports" that the actual program "in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."
Unlike some Democrats, Ms. Harman has defended the eavesdropping, which focuses on people in the United States who officials believe have possible links to terror suspects overseas. In a statement on Dec. 21, she said she believed that the program was "essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."
But Shane omitted the portion of Harman's statement in which she stated her concerns that Bush's domestic spying program went well beyond what she had been briefed on. Harman's statement (a portion of which appeared in the December 22 Los Angeles Times; the full version is not available online but is in the Nexis database) included the following passage:
"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.
"We must use all lawful tools to detect and disrupt the plans of our enemies; signals intelligence and the work of the NSA are vital to that mission. But in doing so, it is also vital that we protect the American people's constitutional rights."
As Media Matters previously noted, Harman had also expressed concerns about the surveillance program before her December 21 remarks. 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."