Fox's Chris Wallace suggested false assertion for McCain: Dem Congress went home, denying government tools to fight terrorists

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER & BRIAN FREDERICK

Referring to the expiring revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Fox host Chris Wallace asserted that when Sen. John McCain "gets on the campaign trail and says, 'Look, here is a law that was going to provide the tools for the United States to be able to intercept communications of people who want to kill us and Congress went home, the Democratic Congress went home on a break' -- that's going to be a pretty effective weapon to use against the Democrats in the fall." In fact, contrary to Wallace's suggestion, the government has "the tools" to "intercept communications" of suspected terrorists.

On the February 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asserted that when Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (AZ) "gets on the campaign trail and says, 'Look, here is a law that was going to provide the tools for the United States to be able to intercept communications of people who want to kill us and Congress went home, the Democratic Congress went home on a break' -- that's going to be a pretty effective weapon to use against the Democrats in the fall." The Protect America Act's (PAA) revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which, among other things, expand the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans' domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant, expire on February 15. But, contrary to Wallace's suggestion that once the PAA revisions expire the government will lack "the tools" to "intercept communications of people who want to kill us," the government has and has long had the tools to intercept communications of suspected terrorists. Before Congress amended FISA in August 2007, the government had the authority to listen in on the communications of suspected terrorists if, under most circumstances, it obtained a court order to eavesdrop on communications either intercepted in the United States or acquired by intentionally targeting the communications of a particular, known U.S. person who is in the United States.

Moreover, House Democratic leaders attempted to pass a three-week extension of the PAA that would have granted lawmakers additional time to construct compromise legislation. That proposal was defeated 229-191 on February 13, with 191 Democrats voting in favor of temporarily extending the PAA, and 34 Democrats joining 195 Republicans in voting against the extension.

Also on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that "[t]he FISA law is going to expire." Kilmeade joins the growing number of media figures and outlets Media Matters for America has identified that have conflated FISA and the PAA.

From the February 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: Hey, Chris, you ready for a series of serious questions? The FISA law is going to expire. In Baghdad, they passed three major pieces of legislation, they're going to have a vote coming up forward, and nobody seems to care. Why is that?

WALLACE: I don't know. But I'll tell you, this is the kind of a thing that I would think that John McCain would look at and say, "This is going to be grist for the mill in November." Look, it's going to be a tough year for the Republicans. They got a faltering economy, an unpopular war, as I said in my own charming way to the president, an unpopular president. But having said that, when McCain gets on the campaign trail and says, "Look, here is a law that was going to provide the tools for the United States to be able to intercept communications of people who want to kill us and Congress went home, the Democratic Congress went home on a break" -- that's going to be a pretty effective weapon to use against the Democrats in the fall.

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