Calling on Republicans to "red-bait like mad," Coulter distorted Democrats' national-security positions

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On Jon Caldara's show on Newsradio 850 KOA, in response to Caldara's question about what Republicans can do to win the midterm elections, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter replied, "Red-bait like mad until Election Day, because Americans do realize you cannot trust Democrats with national security." To support her assertion, Coulter distorted several Democratic positions on national security, claiming, among other things, that Democrats "have gone berserk over the NSA [National Security Agency] monitoring phone calls being placed to numbers found on Al Qaeda telephones and computers."

During the August 24 broadcast of Jon Caldara's show on Newsradio 850 KOA, in response to Caldara's question about what Republicans can do to win the midterm elections, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter replied, "Red-bait like mad until Election Day, because Americans do realize you cannot trust Democrats with national security." To support her assertion, Coulter distorted Democratic positions on national security, claiming that Democrats "have gone berserk over the NSA [National Security Agency] monitoring phone calls being placed to numbers found on Al Qaeda telephones and computers" and that a Democratic victory in November would mean the United States "will stop spying on people calling Al Qaeda numbers in Saudi Arabia found on Al Qaeda computers." Coulter also stated that, if elected, Democrats "will disband the Patriot Act -- take out all the good sections. The CIA will not be able to tell the FBI when we have members of Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah and everything else here in this country."

Coulter's charge that Democrats "have gone berserk over the NSA [National Security Agency] monitoring phone calls being placed to numbers found on Al Qaeda telephones and computers" echoed other conservative commentators on the subject of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program. As Media Matters for America previously noted, no prominent Democrat has argued U.S. intelligence agencies should not eavesdrop on the communications of suspected Al Qaeda operatives. Rather, Democrats, as well as Republicans, have objected to President Bush's decision to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which, except as otherwise specifically provided, requires the government to obtain a warrant to conduct domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.

On August 17, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the U.S. District Court in Detroit ruled that President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program violated FISA -- as well as the First and the Fourth Amendments of the Constitution.

Similarly, Coulter's assertion that Democrats would prevent the sharing of information between the CIA and the FBI is a distortion of bipartisan objections to the renewal of certain provisions of the Patriot Act. According to a July 22 CNN report about the renewal of the Patriot Act, House sponsor Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) said "13 of the 16 provisions up for renewal have not been controversial, including one allowing increased communication between the FBI and CIA." A November 17, 2005, letter from Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Larry Craig (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ken Salazar (D-CO), John Sununu (R-NH), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees highlighted four provisions to which the writers objected:

  • Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which, according to the letter, "would allow the government to obtain sensitive personal information on a mere showing of relevance" and not require the government "to convince a judge that the records they are seeking have some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy."
  • A provision that, according to the letter, would have made it "a crime, punishable by up to one year in prison, for individuals to disclose that they have received an NSL [National Security Letter], even if they believe their rights have been violated."
  • Lengthening the sunset provisions contained in the act or doing away with them altogether -- according to the letter, "Four-year sunsets would ensure accountability and effective oversight."
  • The senators also objected to so-called "Sneak and Peek Warrants." The letter said that the proposed renewal of the Patriot Act required the "government to notify the target of a 'sneak and peek' search no earlier than 30 days after the search, rather than within seven days, as the Senate bill provides and as pre-Patriot Act judicial decisions required."

Increased communication between intelligence agencies was not identified as a problem.

Referring to the provision of the Patriot Act that removed the "wall" between intelligence agencies and allowed them to share information, Feingold told FBI Director Robert Mueller at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2004 that "Nobody wants to put the wall back up":

FEINGOLD: It does pain me to hear you using the same approach that almost everyone else in the administration uses to defend USA PATRIOT Act. I've heard the President do it. I've heard the Attorney General do it. You say the bill has to be reenacted in exactly the same form. Then you cite a bunch of provisions, Mr. Mueller, that nobody objects to. It's a bait and switch. Nobody's against taking down the wall. Nobody wants to put the wall back up.

Feingold was the only senator to vote against the passage of the original Patriot Act in 2001.

Coulter is a frequent guest on Caldara's show. As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Caldara announced on July 20 that Coulter "wants to do a weekly segment with us here on 850 KOA." Caldara added: "I'm sure that that will not happen each and every week."

From the August 24 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show:

CALDARA: What part of the war on terror do Democrats actually support? There's got to be something out there.

COULTER: Right, right -- and the reason I wanted to make this point is I'm getting a little fed up with this mantra of the left, of the Democratic Party -- and this has been a mantra for a while -- that, oh, that horrible, disastrous war in Iraq, it's distracting from what we need to do -- we need to be fighting the war on terrorism. And we will fight the war on terrorism and not waste our time -- we're being hampered and hindered by this war in Iraq. They insist on acting like these are two completely different things, but then you look at, OK, you wouldn't fight the war in Iraq, well, what would you do? You're against the Patriot Act; 43 to 2 the Democrats voted against renewing the Patriot Act last December. Among the crucial provisions of the Patriot Act is the one that allows intelligence agencies to tell the FBI when we have Al Qaeda in the country, as happened right before 9-11, but the CIA couldn't tell the FBI that. Because of the law. Well, the Patriot Act wrecked that. The Democrats don't want to renew that part. They have gone berserk over the NSA monitoring phone calls being placed to numbers found on Al Qaeda telephones and computers.

[...]

CALDARA: Ann, what, what -- everyone is looking at the Republican Party right now and predicting that this could be the Democrats' 1994 -- that this could be bad for Republicans --

COULTER: Right, right -- it ought to be. Right.

CALDARA: Right, and it ought to be, but what do Republicans need to do between now and then, to really change that?

COULTER: Red-bait like mad until Election Day, because Americans do realize you cannot trust Democrats with national security. When the nation is under attack, that always helps Republicans for the reasons I mention in this week's column. What will they do in the war on terrorism? Oh, engagement. Engagement. They're very upset that the war in Iraq has made the terrorists even angrier. OK, vote for the Democrats, because they'll be nice to the terrorists. I mean, it's a losing proposition for them. I'm worried about this fall not so much because Republicans will lose but because Democrats will win, and then we will disband Guantanamo, we'll have a humiliating defeat in Iraq. There will be helicopters on our embassies bringing the last Americans out. We will stop spying on people calling Al Qaeda numbers in Saudi Arabia found on Al Qaeda computers. You'll have all of the -- and by the way, the inmates, as I mention in this week's column -- they always talk about the inmates at Guantanamo like they're innocent insurance salesmen who have somehow just been framed like in a Perry Mason movie. These are Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured on the battlefield. I mean, OK, they might have some excuse -- so I had to fight, I was forced to fight, they said they'd kill my family if I didn't fight -- but still, they were on the battlefield shooting at Americans. And by the way, over a hundred have been released. They have gotten administrative hearings. But they will all be released immediately. They'll disband the Patriot Act -- take out all the good sections. The CIA will not be able to tell the FBI when we have members of Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah and everything else here in this country. It -- a lot of damage can be done in two years, and so I am worried about that. I think Republicans have a lot of advantages over Democrats.

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