During the August 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, discussing the debate over proposed changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham falsely asserted that "[w]e have major editorial pages in the United States -- The New York Times, etc. -- saying that we should not update this surveillance law to meet current advances in technology." She added, "[W]e are now in a blackout with some of this intelligence ... because of what The New York Times and what the Democrats have done." In fact, in an August 3 editorial, the Times wrote that Congress should address the "anachronism" that currently "requires that the government seek such an individualized warrant for purely foreign communications that, nevertheless, move through American data networks." The Times went on to say that instead of addressing that anachronism, the White House "proposed giving the attorney general carte blanche to order eavesdropping on any international telephone calls or e-mail messages if he decided on his own that there was a 'reasonable belief' that the target of the surveillance was outside the United States."
The August 3 New York Times editorial referred to an August 2 Los Angeles Times article, which reported that a "special court that has routinely approved eavesdropping operations has put new restrictions on the ability of U.S. spy agencies to intercept e-mails and telephone calls of suspected terrorists overseas." As the August 3 editorial in The New York Times explained:
The government may freely monitor communications when both parties are outside the United States, but must get a warrant aimed at a specific person for communications that originate or end in this country. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the court that issues such warrants recently ruled that the law also requires that the government seek such an individualized warrant for purely foreign communications that, nevertheless, move through American data networks.
The New York Times did not go on to "say that we should not update this surveillance law to meet current advances in technology" as Ingraham asserted. In fact, the paper argued:
Instead of asking Congress to address this anachronism, as it should, the White House sought to use it to destroy the 1978 spying law. It proposed giving the attorney general carte blanche to order eavesdropping on any international telephone calls or e-mail messages if he decided on his own that there was a "reasonable belief" that the target of the surveillance was outside the United States. The attorney general's decision would not be subject to court approval or any supervision.
Further, news reports have indicated that congressional Democrats are willing to amend FISA. According to the Los Angeles Times article, "Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that 'recent technical developments' had convinced him that 'we must take some immediate but interim step to improve collection of foreign intelligence in a manner that doesn't compromise civil liberties of U.S. citizens.' " The New York Times reported on August 1 that "Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make it easier for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail. Such a step now requires court approval." The New York Times editorial endorsed Rockefeller's approach as well as an alternate approach by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI):
Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, offered a sensible alternative law, as did his fellow Democrat, Senator Russ Feingold. In either case, the attorney general would be able to get a broad warrant to intercept foreign communications routed through American networks for a limited period. Then, he would have to justify the spying in court. This fix would have an expiration date so Congress could then dispassionately consider what permanent changes might be needed to FISA.
The editorial went on to argue that congressional negotiators should not concede that "all electronic surveillance of communication that originates or ends in the United States must be subject to approval and review by the FISA court under the 1978 law" or that the bill have a "firm expiration date."
From the August 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KELLY WRIGHT (guest co-host): Well, while we're talking about what's happening at the White House, the president today, as you know, will be meeting with his national security team discussing counterterrorism and getting things done about that, and also there's the FISA development going on --
WRIGHT: -- what Congress is going to do or not do about making sure that surveillance is conducted.
INGRAHAM: We have major editorial pages in the United States -- The New York Times, etc. -- saying that we should not update this surveillance law to meet current advances in technology. We're talking about intercepting communications between operatives of Al Qaeda.
INGRAHAM: That's what we need to do. We don't need a warrant to do that. We need to do that, because the next attack that happens, heaven forbid in this city, or anywhere across the United States, the first people who are going to complain are [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], Congresswoman [Louise] Slaughter [D-NY]. All these people are going to say: "What was the Bush administration doing? They should have been connecting the dots. They should have been connecting this intelligence."
INGRAHAM: Well, we can't get it because we are now in a blackout with some of this intelligence --
INGRAHAM: -- because of what The New York Times and what the Democrats have done. They stand in the way of common sense. It's common-sense advances in these laws and we need to do it. It's absolutely critical.
Earlier on the show, while discussing the Minneapolis bridge collapse and accusations by some Democrats the Iraq war has diverted funding for infrastructure improvements, Ingraham asserted: "Obviously there are a lot of people invested in our defeat in Iraq, and you're seeing this play out day after day, no matter what is happening." This is not the first time conservative media commentators have accused war critics of being "invested in our defeat in Iraq." For example, as Media Matters for America documented, on the July 31 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson distorted comments Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) made to The Washington Post and asserted that those comments showed that some politicians' "nightly prayers are evidently that their country lose a war because otherwise they might lose an election." In addition, as Media Matters also documented, The Washington Times asserted in a July 23 editorial that "Mrs. [Sen. Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY] is apparently so invested in defeat that she has been trying to browbeat the Defense Department into publicly discussing contingency plans for withdrawing from Iraq."
As Media Matters has documented, on the July 31 broadcast of her radio show, Ingraham said that CNN had "emailed me" and "said, 'Will you fill in the 8 o'clock [p.m. ET] hour for a week?' "
From the August 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
WRIGHT: Let's get serious about this situation where they're blaming President Bush for the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota.
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Only took a day.
INGRAHAM: I thought that was MSNBC -- but oh no, it's the Daily Kos. Yeah. The Daily Kos, which is the big left-wing blog site where all the Democrats are actually going to their big convention this weekend, the far left -- George Soros gives them money. Within minutes of the bridge collapse, there was this message board where people are emailing in, every other word seemed to be "Halliburton," or "war on terror diverting funds -- should be used for structural deficiencies."
INGRAHAM: Essentially if something's happening bad in the United States or anywhere in our galaxy --
INGRAHAM: -- it's George Bush's fault.
DOOCY: Well, in this case, there have been some vocal Democrats already out there. I mean, [Sen.] Harry Reid's [NV] come out and had some things --
INGRAHAM: Oh. That's a shock
DOOCY: Louise Slaughter, congresswoman from New York, said that, while, we need to tend to our own infrastructure, all the cash is going to Iraq.
INGRAHAM: Yeah, well, you know, this is what they're going to hang everything on. And, obviously, there are a lot of people invested in our defeat in Iraq, and you're seeing this play out day after day, no matter what is happening.