Fox's Gibson baselessly linked domestic surveillance program and L.A. terror plot

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Fox News host John Gibson suggested a link between the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and the foiling of an Al Qaeda plot, first described by President Bush in a February 9 speech, to destroy the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Bush, however, did not mention the controversial surveillance program in his speech, and the White House refused to say if the domestic surveillance program was involved in foiling the terrorist plot.

On the February 9 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson suggested a link between the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and the foiling of an Al Qaeda plot to destroy the Library Tower in Los Angeles. President Bush first described the plot in detail in a February 9 speech at the National Guard Building in Washington, D.C. Bush, however, did not mention the controversial surveillance program, conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA), in his speech, and the White House refused to say if the program was involved in foiling the terrorist plot.

In a February 9 press briefing, Frances Fragos Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, stated explicitly that Bush's speech was not about the domestic surveillance program and refused to link the program to the terror plot in any way. From the White House press briefing:

REPORTER: I understand that the House Intelligence Committee was briefed yesterday on the NSA wire tapping program, and I understand that at least some of the members present asked either General [Michael V.] Hayden [deputy director of national intelligence] or Mr. [Attorney General Alberto R.] Gonzales why they couldn't tell more success stories. So it's interesting to me that news of this is coming out today. So my follow question is: Did the NSA wiretaps, did they play any role in any of these arrests that you talked about, and in disrupting this particular plot?

TOWNSEND: As I said to you, we use all available sources and methods in the intelligence community, but we have to protect them. So I'm not going to talk about what ones we did or didn't use in this particular case. And I wasn't at the briefing yesterday, so I can't speak directly to that.

REPORTER: So you can't say that this is a direct result, a successful result of that initiative?

TOWNSEND: I wouldn't say one way or the other. I wouldn't comment on it.

REPORTER: Hi. I had essentially the same question related to the NSA. Is there nothing at all that you can tell us in any regard as to whether the NSA surveillance was at all instrumental?

TOWNSEND: No, I'm sorry, I can't. It continues to be a very sensitive program. It's resulted in successes, but I can't relate it in any way one way or another to this particular plot.

REPORTER: As a follow up, because certainly in the light of the hearings going on this week, and the criticism for this surveillance, it would seem that the president talking about a success story such as this sort of skirts the question of the NSA. Is it wrong for us to put two and two together?

TOWNSEND: The point -- as I said in my opening statement -- the point of the president's speech was to talk about the international cooperation. This was not meant to be a speech about the NSA surveillance program.

Neverless, Gibson suggested a link on the February 9 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson. When guest P.J. Crowley, former special assistant to President Clinton, noted that the Los Angeles terror plot was foiled by the CIA, not the NSA, Gibson responded: "They're the same kind of thing ... the same animal" Later in the program, while purporting to "[c]onnect the dots," Gibson lumped together the alleged Library Tower plot and the "controversy over the use of high-tech spying." From the February 9 Big Story:

GIBSON: The Patriot Act is up right now, too. I mean, they're squabbling about that this very second.

CROWLEY: Sure. But this particular plot involved great work by the CIA, not great work by the NSA. And so I think they wanted to create a kind of connectivity between this terror surveillance program and the plot in 2002 that doesn't exist.

GIBSON: Well, do you have a problem with that connectivity? I don't.

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the two things are unrelated.

GIBSON: They're the same kind of thing. They may be a different color, but they're the same animal. This all illustrates why we want to be on our tippy toes with these guys.

[...]

GIBSON: Okay, it was the Library Tower. I await tonight's monologues. This is a gimme for the joke writers. But lest the point be forgotten, Khalid Sheik Mohammed is in a jail cell and others like him are also in cells or are dead. Part of the reason is we're so spooky with our high-tech spying toys. Connect the dots -- high-tech spying capabilities, terrorists foiled, controversy over the use of high-tech spying. This isn't hard to figure out, is it? I know the American people have.

So why is it certain politicians have not? Why do they keep screaming dot the I's, cross the T's, legal, legal, legal. And we'll tell you what legal is, by the way. Just remember, next time a terrorist plans to blow up the Liberty Tower in L.A., you want somebody on our side to be listening, don't you? Even more so if they are planning to blow up the Library Tower, which is also in L.A., evidently. That's "My Word."

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