On Special Report, Hume told the truth on warrantless wiretaps, then corrected himself

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On Special Report, Brit Hume reported that "[t]he Senate Judiciary Committee's latest deadline for the White House to comply with its subpoena for documents relating to warrantless -- allegedly warrantless wiretaps has come and gone." Contrary to Hume's assertion, administration officials have admitted that the National Security Agency has engaged in warrantless wiretapping.

On the August 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume reported: "The Senate Judiciary Committee's latest deadline for the White House to comply with its subpoena for documents relating to warrantless -- allegedly warrantless wiretaps has come and gone." Contrary to Hume's assertion that the administration has only "allegedly" engaged in warrantless wiretapping, administration officials have admitted that the National Security Agency has engaged in warrantless wiretapping.

The New York Times, the first news outlet to reveal the existence of the wiretapping program, reported in a December 16, 2005, article: "Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States -- including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners -- is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation." The next day, during his radio address, President Bush confirmed that he had "authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."

Several administration officials have since admitted that the wiretapping program, which the administration calls the terrorist surveillance program (TSP), involves warrantless surveillance. A January 19, 2006, "White Paper" from the Department of Justice -- titled "Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President" -- stated: "The NSA activities are supported by the President's well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States." In addition to claiming that the president has "inherent constitutional authority ... to conduct warrantless surveillance," the paper asserted that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force "confirms and supplements the President's inherent power to use warrantless surveillance." Altogether, the 42-page document used the word "warrantless" 36 times. This document was cited in a January 22, 2006, White House press release, titled "Setting the Record Straight: Democrats Continue to Attack Terrorist Surveillance Program."

Additionally, a December 12, 2006, unclassified reply brief written by Justice Department attorneys appealing a federal district court decision holding that the surveillance program violated the Constitution and other laws stated that "the TSP intercepts without warrants at least some international communications." From the brief:

Plaintiffs claim (Br. 58) that invocation of the state secrets privilege does not require dismissal because "Government officials have publicly promoted and defended the legality, scope, and basis for the program." Beyond acknowledging that the TSP intercepts without warrants at least some international communications to or from individuals the Government has reasonable grounds to believe are associated with al Qaeda, the Government has not revealed any information regarding the Program, including its methods and means. To the contrary, as explained in the classified declarations, the Government has vigorously sought to prevent disclosure of the Program's operational details.

Further, in a January 23, 2006, speech to the National Press Club, current CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, then the principal deputy director of National Intelligence, who was the NSA director when the warrantless wiretapping program was initiated, said that under the program, "The trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is for a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant, but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve al Qaeda or one of its affiliates." During the May 18, 2006, congressional hearing on Hayden's nomination as CIA director, while discussing a briefing Hayden held on March 11, 2004, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) asked: "[T]he very next day you briefed the majority leader of the House. This is all on the warrantless surveillance program, right?" Hayden replied: "Yes, sir."

Also, during his February 6, 2006, testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales asserted, "[T]he terrorist surveillance program is lawful in all respects." In his description of the administration's legal justification for the program, Gonzales stated that, "in 2002, the FISA Court of Review explained that -- quote -- 'all the other courts to have decided the issue [have] held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain intelligence information.' " Gonzales also claimed that "Presidents throughout our history have authorized the warrantless surveillance of the enemy during wartime. And they have done so in ways far more sweeping than the narrowly targeted terrorist surveillance program authorized by President Bush."

From the August 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: The Senate Judiciary Committee's latest deadline for the White House to comply with its subpoena for documents relating to warrantless -- allegedly warrantless wiretaps has come and gone. White House counsel Fred Fielding has asked for an extension until after Labor Day. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy today called that "dilatory unresponsiveness," but said he still prefers cooperation to contempt, and he'll bring the matter up before the committee when the Senate returns in September.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.