Abrams failed to challenge disputed assertion that domestic spy program is "very targeted"

››› ››› SAM GILL

MSNBC host Dan Abrams failed to challenge the assertion of Kris W. Kobach, a constitutional law professor and former counsel to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, that President Bush's controversial domestic spying program dealt only with "very targeted" calls. In fact, recent media reports indicate that the program has cast a broad net, monitoring thousands of people with no relationship to Al Qaeda.

On the January 6 edition of MSNBC's The Abrams Report, host Dan Abrams failed to challenge Kris W. Kobach's assertion that President Bush's controversial warrantless domestic spying program dealt only with "very targeted" calls. Kobach, a constitutional law professor and former counsel to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, defended the program against the criticism of Gerald B. Lefcourt, a defense attorney and past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Kobach claimed that the warrantless surveillance program monitored "only on those communications between a known Al Qaeda source or a suspected Al Qaeda source." In fact, according to recent media reports citing current and former government officials, the program is far from being "very targeted"; it has cast a broad net, monitoring the communications of thousands of people with no relationship to Al Qaeda.

A February 5 Washington Post report quoting "current and former government officials" stated 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 similarly 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."

From the January 6 edition of MSNBC's The Abrams Report:

KOBACH: Well, yeah, that is that -- look, the surveillance here is only on those communications between a known Al Qaeda source or a suspected Al Qaeda source, I should say, and someone inside the United States. These are very targeted. And the critics of this program who have been claiming, "Oh, it's domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens," have been deliberately, I would say, misleading by making it seem as if all of our phone calls are subject to surveillance. No, not at all. Only if we happen to be making an international call to someone whose number is a known Al Qaeda number, yeah, then we might.

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