Barone: Democrats want to "hang up the phone and go to court" rather than intercept terrorist phone calls

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

On Fox News Sunday, Michael Barone falsely claimed that Democrats would prefer to "hang up the phone and go to court," rather than "listening to what ... terrorists are plotting." In fact, Democrats -- and numerous Republicans and conservatives -- have said nothing of the sort, pointing to a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Bush administration has apparently violated, that allows the government to undertake surveillance in emergency situations for up to 72 hours before obtaining a warrant.

On the October 29 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, U.S. News & World Report senior writer and Fox News contributor Michael Barone falsely claimed that Democrats would prefer to "hang up the phone and go to court," rather than "listening to what ... terrorists are plotting." His assertion is a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which, except as otherwise specifically provided, requires the government to obtain a warrant to intercept communications that include someone in the United States. Democrats -- and numerous Republicans and conservatives -- have sharply criticized the Bush administration for its apparent violation of FISA, which, contrary to Barone's suggestion, includes an emergency provision that allows the government to wait up to 72 hours to obtain a warrant. In other words, in the situation Barone described, under FISA, the government would not have to "hang up the phone and go to court" before "listening to what ... terrorists are plotting."

Barone's assertion echoed Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who recently suggested on NBC's Today that a Democratic Congress would come at the expense of "all the post-9-11 tools we've had," as Media Matters noted, and who stated on the August 13 edition of NBC's Meet the Press that Democrats "oppose efforts to surveil the enemy." Variations of that false claim have been repeated by other top officials in the Bush administration, including White House senior adviser Karl Rove, who said on January 20 that "[s]ome important Democrats clearly disagree" with President Bush, who "believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why."

From the October 29 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Less than a minute left, and you know, I think that most of these politicians would say that it does not -- November 8th doesn't even exist between now and November 7th. Do Democrats pay a price if they don't have an alternative?

BARONE: Well, that's one of the questions. I think it's possible some of them may pay a price on this terrorist interrogation issue, where most of them opposed the measure supported by Senator [John] McCain [R-AZ], as well as President Bush. On the question of whether NSA surveillance of Al Qaeda suspects abroad should have to hang up the phone when they call persons in the United States -- most Democrats said hang up the phone and go to court. Most Republicans said, keep listening to what these terrorists are plotting. Those are issues that could work for them. [Rep.] Harold Ford [D-TN] and [Rep.] Sherrod Brown [D-OH], two Democrats running for the Senate, voted for those measures in the House.

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