Horowitz baselessly suggested that domestic spying led to foiling of NYC tunnel plot
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In his latest column, David Horowitz baselessly suggested that U.S. officials were able to uncover an alleged "attack by radical Islam" to bomb tunnels leading into New York City by monitoring the communications of Americans, an apparent reference to the controversy over The New York Times' reporting in December that the administration was monitoring domestic communications without a warrant. In fact, there is no indication, in any reports, that the FBI engaged in the kind of domestic eavesdropping on which the Times reported to uncover the alleged tunnel plot; the communications made in connection with the purported plot apparently did not involve a party inside the United States.
In his July 10 column, titled "Liberals Offer the Worst Possible Defense for the U.S," right-wing activist David Horowitz baselessly suggested that U.S. officials uncovered an alleged "attack by radical Islam" to bomb tunnels leading into New York City by monitoring the communications of Americans. With the claim that the FBI was "listening in on an Internet chat room -- thus invading Americans' privacy," Horowitz was apparently referring to the enormous controversy generated by reports, initially published by The New York Times, for which the paper received the Pulitzer prize, that the Bush administration was monitoring the communications of people in the United States without a warrant, in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Horowitz asserted that the supposed foiled plot shows the danger of "American radicals posing as civil liberties activists ... busily leaking national security secrets" to the media. In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, there is no indication, in any reports, that the FBI engaged in the kind of domestic eavesdropping on which the Times reported to uncover the alleged tunnel plot; the communications made in connection with the purported plot apparently did not involve a party inside the United States.
Additionally, Horowitz deceptively claimed that, in 2004, President Bush was "returned ... to the presidency by a wider popular margin than any Democratic President has received since 1964" and falsely asserted that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) "proclaim[ed] America the world's greatest threat to the peace."
On July 7, the New York Daily News reported on the arrest of Assem Hammoud (also known as Amir Andalousli) for allegedly conspiring to launch a terrorist attack in New York City with the hopes of flooding the city's Financial District. Hammoud was arrested in Beirut, Lebanon. In a July 7 press conference, FBI assistant director Mark J. Mershon clarified that Hammoud allegedly plotted with other would-be terrorists to, as the Los Angeles Times reported, "blow up commuter train tunnels beneath the Hudson River that connect Lower Manhattan and New Jersey." As the Los Angeles Times noted, during the press conference, Mershon criticized the disclosure of Hammoud's arrest, reporting "that authorities had not planned to disclose Hammoud's arrest or other elements of the plot disruption, and that the unwanted publicity had 'greatly complicated' efforts to catch the five remaining fugitives." Two other unknown, alleged co-conspirators have been detained in relation to the terrorism plot.
While accusing Democrats, liberals, and leftists for "betray[ing] national security," engaging in "hate America" political warfare, and otherwise undermining democracy, Horowitz baselessly suggested that Hammoud's arrest involved surveillance of the communications of Americans. From his column:
In another, FBI agents listening in on an Internet chat room -- thus invading Americans' privacy and "destroying" their constitutional liberties -- managed to prevent a new 9/11 attack by radical Islam on the tunnel under the Hudson River that carries millions of commuters to New York to work.
Later in the column, he wrote:
The launching the North Korean missiles and the foiling of the terror plot in New York can serve as a warning and a wake-up call. Reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which disaffected citizens should be monitored by law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies. But the way to resolve these differences is not by breaking the law, revealing national secrets and sabotaging the war effort.
In December 2005, The New York Times reported that shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international phone and email communications that originate from or are received within the United States without regard to the warrant requirements provided under FISA.
However, as Media Matters previously noted, there is no indication that the FBI obtained intelligence from domestic communications to thwart the alleged plot. All three detained in relation to the alleged plot appear to be foreign nationals, not Americans. The only suspect identified, Hammoud, was Lebanese and has been accused of masterminding the plot. The Chicago Tribune reported on July 8, that, in his press conference, Mershon asserted that "the plot was disrupted thanks to what" the FBI "described as a 'textbook' cooperative effort among counterterrorism officials in the United States, Lebanon and five other foreign governments." Neither intelligence officials nor the media have reported that any of the surveillance involved the interception of domestic communications. In fact, according to reports, none of the alleged conspirators are known to have even visited the United States as part of the alleged plot. Hammoud is known to have traveled to the United States once, six years ago, but -- as noted by the Los Angeles Times -- "authorities had found no connections between the visit and any alleged terrorist activity or planning."
Also in his column, Horowitz deceptively claimed that Bush's 2004 re-election "ratified" the Iraq war and "the policy that governed it" because "the American people ... returned George Bush to the presidency by a wider popular margin than any Democratic President has received since 1964." In fact, while Bush did receive a larger percentage of the total vote than any Democrat has since 1964, in both 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton defeated his Republican opponent by at least twice as many votes as Bush defeated Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in 2004. That year, Bush beat Kerry by approximately 3 million votes, but Clinton defeated Republican candidate Bob Dole by more than 8 million votes in 1996. Clinton also had a "wider popular margin" in his 1992 candidacy than did Bush in 2004, beating his closest challenger by nearly 6 million votes.
Further, Horowitz repeated a debunked claim that Murtha "proclaim[ed] America the world's greatest threat to the peace," thus undermining "our troops [that] are in harm's way." Horowitz was presumably referring to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article from June 25 -- which the paper corrected on June 28 -- that reported on Murtha's supposed claim, during a speech in Miami, that the "American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran." But, as Media Matters noted, according to the Sun-Sentinel's June 28 correction, Murtha was apparently citing a recent Pew Research Center poll covering the United States and 14 European, African, and Asian countries, which found that respondents in 10 of the 14 foreign countries polled said that the U.S. presence in Iraq is seen as a greater threat to global security than North Korea and Iran. Many media conservatives used the initial report as fodder to launch vicious attacks against Murtha or even suggest that Congress should censure him.