On O'Reilly, Newsmax's Kessler misrepresented Obama and Clinton vote on FISA, Edwards statement on "global war on terror"

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On The O'Reilly Factor, Newsmax.com chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton "voted to give Osama bin Laden the same rights that Americans have when it comes to intercepting his calls, even if he made calls within Pakistan, to Pakistan. They voted in August to not revise the FISA act." In fact, Obama and Clinton both voted for legislation sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin that would have amended FISA to allow warrantless wiretapping of foreign-to-foreign calls, regardless of whether they are transmitted through the United States.

During the November 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, author and Newsmax.com chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "voted to give Osama bin Laden the same rights that Americans have when it comes to intercepting his calls, even if he made calls within Pakistan, to Pakistan. They voted in August to not revise the FISA act" -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. In fact, while Obama and Clinton both voted against legislation on FISA sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both voted for legislation sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin that would have amended FISA to extend the government's authority to wiretap foreign-to-foreign calls, regardless of whether they are transmitted through the United States, as Media Matters for America documented. Levin's bill would have reversed a reported ruling that the government needs to comply with FISA warrant requirements for foreign-to-foreign communications that happen to go through the United States.

From the bill Obama and Clinton voted for:

Sec. 105A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of the contents of any communication between persons that are not located within the United States for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the United States or the surveillance device is located within the United States.

Like the Levin bill, the McConnell-sponsored legislation had the effect of extending the administration's authority to intercept foreign-to-foreign calls without a warrant. However, according to an August 6 New York Times article, the bill also, in effect, authorized the monitoring of domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant, "as long as the target of the government's surveillance is 'reasonably believed' to be overseas." As the Times reported, McConnell's version of the bill "broadly expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants."

Later in the segment, Kessler misrepresented former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) comments about the war on terror. In an apparent reference to Edwards' comments during the June 3 Democratic presidential debate:

KESSLER: Well, you know, I just think it's a recipe for suicide. We see the war on terror being attacked by the liberal media, by the liberal politicians as a figment of someone's imagination. Edwards says it's a bumper sticker. And yet, you know, Al Qaeda wants to detonate nuclear devices in this country, as [FBI Director] Bob Mueller told me.

During the debate, Edwards stated, "But what this global war on terror bumper sticker -- political slogan, that's all it is, all it's ever been -- was intended to do was for George Bush to use it to justify everything he does: the ongoing war in Iraq, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, spying on Americans, torture." However, Kessler left out the remarks Edwards made immediately before that statement: "As president of the United States, I will do absolutely everything to find terrorists where they are, to stop them before they can do harm to us, before they can do harm to America or to its allies. Every tool available -- military alliances, intelligence -- I will use." Host Bill O'Reilly has previously distorted the same comments, cropping Edwards' quote to exclude what Edwards said he would do to address the terrorist threat and claiming "John Edwards looks dopey" on the June 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, as Media Matters documented.

From the November 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: "Impact" segment tonight. There's a growing movement in the USA to ignore Iran's nuclear capabilities. Writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer today, Tad Daley, a doctor, puts forth that Iran should be left alone at this point.

With us now, Ronald Kessler, author of the brand new book The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack [Crown Forum, November 2007]. We're hearing this more and more that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons, can do what it wants to do, whatever. And you say?

KESSLER: Well, this is the same mentality that Barack Obama and Hillary had when they voted to give Osama bin Laden the same rights that Americans have when it comes to intercepting his calls, even if he made calls within Pakistan, to Pakistan. They voted in August to not revise the FISA act. So it's the same mentality that, you know, these people who say they want to kill us, who say they want to wipe out America, wipe out Israel, should be given the same rights as Americans.

O'REILLY: Well, a lot of people say it's hyperbole. I mean, they say this is the play for the home crowd, the home team. And why should we be worried about Iran when President Bush sold a -- weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? That didn't happen. And the administration -- and this is what the left is saying. It's just pumping up another violent conflict. And you answer how?

[...]

KESSLER: Right. So it would have been literally impossible to get behind that. Impossible. On the other hand, Saddam admitted to this agent that he did intend to resume his WMD program, which he thought he could do within a year when sanctions were lifted, in part because he was paying off U.N. inspectors. And he said he intended to get a nuclear device. Now, these are things that we simply can't take a chance on.

O'REILLY: Well, I'm sure a megalomaniac like that would have liked to. Now, that is being used against any action against Iran. See, this is how it goes around, comes around. Because the U.S. blew it on WMDs, now the skeptics all over the world are going, "Why should we believe you on Iran because you screwed up Iraq?" There you go.

KESSLER: Well, you know, I just think it's a recipe for suicide. We see the war on terror being attacked by the liberal media, by the liberal politicians as a figment of someone's imagination. Edwards says it's a bumper sticker. And yet, you know, Al Qaeda wants to detonate nuclear devices in this country --

O'REILLY: Oh, I think they do, too.

KESSLER: -- as Bob Mueller told me. And they're -- you know, and it's a miracle that it hasn't happened. And the fact is, the war on success has been -- the war on terror has been a tremendous success. We've rolled up 5,000 terrorists since 9-11.

O'REILLY: And you can tell --

KESSLER: You'll never see that headline in The Washington Post or The New York Times.

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