Chris Matthews claimed that a comment made by President Bush in April 2004 that "[a]ny time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order" was "pre-9-11."
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On the February 6 edition of MSNBC Live, Hardball host Chris Matthews falsely claimed that President Bush's April 2004 statement that "[a]ny time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order" was "pre-9-11." Though it is not clear whether Matthews meant that Bush made this statement prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or that Bush was simply referring to "pre-9-11" policies, either claim would be false. In fact, Bush's statement came more than two years after the September 11 attacks and included Bush's assertion that "[n]othing has changed. ... When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
On February 6, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Bush's authorization of warrantless eavesdropping on the communications of U.S. residents -- an apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Referring at the hearing to Bush's 2004 statement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told Gonzales: "Mr. Attorney General, in light of what you and the president have said in the past month, this statement appears to be false."
On MSNBC Live, anchor Contessa Brewer asked Matthews about Feinstein's use of Bush's 2004 statement. Matthews falsely responded: "Well, that's what he said in the past. Of course, that was pre-9-11."
In fact, on April 20, 2004 -- more than two years after authorizing the warrantless eavesdropping program -- Bush stated that "[n]othing has changed" and that "[w]hen we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Bush did not suggest that his comments applied only to pre-September 11 policies. From Bush's "conversation on the USA Patriot Act" in Buffalo, New York:
BUSH: Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
From the February 6 edition of MSNBC Live:
BREWER: Democrats really, though -- they're playing hardball, if you'll excuse the pun.
BREWER: Sen. Dianne Feinstein played a little sound bite from President Bush from a speech back in 2004 where he's talking about wiretapping, and he's going to assure the press that are there and the people who are attending this event that they have to go to court to get a court order before they wiretap. How does that all play out?
MATTHEWS: Well, that's what he said in the past. Of course, that was pre-9-11. And he'll tell you, and he'll say that the Congress gave him authority under 9-11 -- the 9-11 September 14  authorization [for use of military force] -- to do what he had to do against the people attacking us on 9-11. He'll say, "Times have changed."