Fox's Angle adopted administration explanation of Bush's 2004 statement denying warrantless wiretaps

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Fox News' Jim Angle repeated as fact President Bush's and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's explanation of Bush's 2004 remarks, in which he stated that "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order," and that "[w]hen we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Angle did not inform viewers that Bush's explanation -- that the statement applied only to roving wiretaps in the context of the USA Patriot Act -- is contradicted by his own words.

On the February 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle repeated as fact President Bush's and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's explanation for Bush's April 20, 2004, remarks on wiretap authorization. Bush stated that "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order," and that "[w]hen we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Critics have argued the 2004 statement indicates Bush falsely suggested that the administration would not conduct domestic surveillance without a warrant, even though that is what the administration was secretly doing. Bush and Gonzales have defended the 2004 statement, claiming it applied only to roving wiretaps in the context of the USA Patriot Act. Although Bush made the 2004 statement in the context of defending the Patriot Act's authorization of roving wiretaps, as Media Matters for America previously noted, Bush's statement was unqualified as it referred to all wiretapping activity. In his report, Angle did not inform viewers that Bush's explanation of his 2004 remarks is contradicted by his own words; Angle stated only that Bush said "warrants are always obtained in domestic wiretaps under the Patriot Act."

Angle repeated Gonzales's defense of Bush's 2004 statement while reporting on an exchange between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Gonzales, during Gonzales's February 6 testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the secret warrantless eavesdropping program Bush authorized. Angle stated:

ANGLE: Senator Feinstein even accused the president of lying in a statement he made in 2004, saying warrants are always obtained in domestic wiretaps under the Patriot Act. Gonzales said that has nothing to do with international intercepts of terrorist communications.

Angle's report echoed Gonzales's defense of Bush's 2004 statement, made in response to a question from Feinstein:

FEINSTEIN: Mr. Attorney General, in light of what you and the president have said in the past month, this statement appears to be false. Do you agree?

GONZALES: No, I don't, Senator. In fact, I take great issue with your suggestion that, somehow, that the president of the United States was not being totally forthcoming with the American people.

I have his statement, and in the sentence immediately before what you're talking about, he said -- he was referring to roving wiretaps.

And so, I think anyone --

FEINSTEIN: So, you're saying that statement only relates to roving wiretaps, is that correct?

GONZALES: Senator, that discussion was about the Patriot Act. And right before he uttered those words that you're referring to, he said, "Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talk about wiretaps, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order."

So, as you know, the president is not a lawyer, but this was a discussion about the Patriot Act, this was a discussion about roving wiretaps. And I think some people are trying to take part of his statement out of context, and I think that's unfair.

FEINSTEIN: OK, fair enough. Let me move along.

Gonzales's statement echoed remarks Bush made at a January 1 White House press conference. When a reporter asked Bush if he was "in any way misleading" when he stated in 2004 that wiretaps require warrants, Bush responded that he "was talking about roving wiretaps ... involved in the Patriot Act," which, he said, is "different from the NSA program":

QUESTION: In 2004, when you were doing an event about the Patriot Act, in your remarks, you had said that any wiretapping required a court order, and that nothing had changed. Given that we now know you had prior approval for this NSA program, were you in any way misleading?

BUSH: I was talking about roving wiretaps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the NSA program. The NSA program is a necessary program. I was elected to protect the American people from harm.

But as Media Matters noted, although Bush's 2004 statement was made in the context of defending the Patriot Act's authorization of roving wiretaps for which warrants are obtained, it referred to all wiretapping activity, not just "roving wiretaps ... involved in the Patriot Act" as Bush later claimed. From Bush's "Conversation on the USA Patriot Act" in Buffalo, New York, on April 20, 2004:

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 Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: The questioning also got rather personal as Senator [Russ] Feingold [D-WI] flatly accused Gonzales of having lied in his confirmation hearing.

FEINGOLD: Look, this is what you said: "It's not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes." And when you said that, you knew about this program.

ANGLE: Gonzales said his answer stands that what the president authorized was not illegal, but Feingold said Gonzales knowingly misled the Senate.

FEINGOLD: Of course, if you had told the truth, maybe, that would have jeopardized your nomination.

GONZALES: Senator, I told the truth then. I'm telling the truth now. You asked about a hypothetical situation of the president of the United States authorizing electronic surveillance in violation of our criminal statutes. That has not occurred.

ANGLE: Senator Feinstein even accused the president of lying in a statement he made in 2004, saying warrants are always obtained in domestic wiretaps under the Patriot Act. Gonzales said that has nothing to do with international intercepts of terrorist communications -- all prompting this observation from Senator Lindsey Graham [R-SC].

GRAHAM: Well, I would think if you believed that our president was breaking the law, you'd have the courage of your convictions and you'd bring -- you'd stop funding for it.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Jim Angle
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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