In an interview conducted in her office, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told FNC’s Jim Angle that the “very valuable” terrorist surveillance program “fits within” the FISA law. In the session excerpted on Friday’s Special Report with Brit Hume, she deplored how leaks are hurting intelligence efforts and scolded the news media for “not extremely accurate” characterizations of the program. Zeroing in on the New York Times, which first revealed the program, Harman asserted their story was “inaccurate” because they reported it included a “domestic-to-domestic” surveillance effort. She also charged that “these leaks are compromising some core capability of the United States,” regretting how “it's tragic that this whole thing is being aired in the newspapers.” As to who is the blame, however, she bore in on the Bush administration for how “this can't be handled in normal channels because this administration refuses to share the information with Congress." (Transcript follows.)
President Bush gave some details Thursday concerning foiled plots by al Qaeda to attack America, including one plan to fly a plane into the tallest building on the West Coast that was successfully averted. Unfortunately, those that rely on either The New York Times or The Washington Post for their news might have missed these revelations, for this story was curiously not placed on the front page of either of these papers.
The New York Times strategically placed its article on this subject on page A22. Times’ editors must have felt that more information about what the administration knew concerning the levees in New Orleans before Katrina hit, warnings on ADHD drugs, how Haiti elections are shaping up, a resignation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, security issues at America’s borders, and how magazines use numbers on their covers to tantalize consumers were more important than America foiling al Qaeda attacks.
Vice-President Cheney spoke, last night, to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The AP has a snippet of his speech in their video stories this morning. The passage that they've got up includes the following from the Vice President, speaking on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program:
Some of our critics call this a "domestic surveillance program." Wrong. That is inaccurate. It is not domestic surveillance. We are talking about communications, one end of which is outside the United States and therefore interational and one end of which we have reason to believe is somehow tied to or related to Al-quaeda. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States.
She interviewed NBC reporter Richard Engel on this morning's Today show in the wake of the release of a new videotape of Jill Carroll, the US journalist kidnapped in Iraq last month. The tape showed a composed Carroll speaking before a floral backdrop.
Couric, ever the fashion maven, declared "it's actually kind of a pretty setting." Perhaps Katie can pick up some matching shoes while in 'Torino'. Engel explained that the captors appear to be sending the message that they are looking to negotiate.
Over at the NBC Nightly News "Daily Nightly" blog, NBC "investigative producer" Robert Windrem relates how at the 2:30 pm editorial meeting on Wednesday, "we had a lively discussion of what the context should be" about the Muslim cartoon jihad. For his part, Windrem agreed with local liberal academics, who somehow can link cartoonists to police brutality:
The bottom line for me was that this can't be dealt with as a story about cartoons or even about Islamic prohibitions about the depiction of Muhammad. It has to be about the simmering pot that went to boil, as Shibley Telhami, the University of Maryland scholar, said this morning on Washington radio. He noted that this is the Islamic version of the Rodney King verdict. In that case, it wasn't just about the verdict against four Los Angeles policemen. It was about African-Americans' belief, whether based on reality or perception, that they had been the victims of decades of racism and thuggery by the LAPD.
You have to love it when reporters play dumb. The case for the NSA program, approved by the American people in nearly all polls (sometimes by as much as a 2-1 margin) understand, fund and support the program.
“President Bush offered new information on Thursday about what he said was a foiled plot by Al Qaeda in 2002 to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, as he sought to make the case for his record on national security.”
The first words issued by NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams tonight were as follows:
"The plot thickens. Tonight, the President reveals new details about an alleged terrorist plot involving hijackers, shoe bombers, and a sky scraper in Los Angeles.
But there are questions."
And with that, Brian Williams launched into what appared to be quite a skeptical analysis of the details released by President Bush today regarding the foiled plot to hijack a passenger jet and crash it into an L.A. sky scraper.
Reporting on President Bush’s Thursday speech in which he detailed a foiled al-Qaeda attack on a Los Angeles office tower, the three broadcast network evening newscasts fretted about the timing in relation to controversy over “domestic eavesdropping.” ABC co-anchor Charles Gibson cued up George Stephanopoulos, “Democrats in Washington immediately began asking: Why is the President talking about this now?” Stephanopoulos contended “there is a lot of politics at play here,” but portrayed Democrats as the victims as he relayed how “Republicans hope that this war on terror issue is going to be the key to have them keeping control of the House and the Senate in these 2006 mid-term elections” while Democrats “know” they “can’t let Republicans play the fear card.”
CBS’s Jim Axelrod maintained that “the eavesdropping issue is starting to cut just a little bit differently, as even some Republicans now are starting to call for more oversight" and “the President's speech came at a time when his tactics in the war on terror are under attack from some quarters with the eavesdropping controversy consuming Washington.” It certainly is “consuming” the press corps. Axelrod zeroed in how “the White House won't go anywhere near this question of whether the eavesdropping program had anything to do with the foiling of this West coast bomb plot, won't go anywhere near it. But checking across the government today, we couldn't find one single U.S. official to say that it had.” Jim Stewart reported that “they got this information not from any wiretap, but from what they called the rigorous questioning of some al Qaeda detainees.” To which Bob Schieffer translated: “Torture." NBC’s Brian Williams opened: “The White House says it was just a coincidence that during this time while the President is under fire for a program of domestic eavesdropping, and while he's been trying to renew provisions of the Patriot Act, he just happened to choose today as the day to talk about a planned terrorist incident in the U.S. that was thwarted.” (Transcripts follow.)
Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations and Foreign Policy Advisor under the Clinton administration, repeated the often-heard myth that President Clinton prevented Millennium attacks on the United States. Soderberg made the debunked claim as a guest on tonight's episode of The O'Reilly Factor (Thursday, February 9, 2006).
Soderberg's claim would refer to the arrest of terrorist Ahmed Ressam at the U.S-Canada border on December 14, 1999. It was later learned that Ressam planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on or around New Year's Day 2000. Clinton defenders have often falsely cited this incident as evidence that Clinton proactively and successfully defended the United States against terrorism.
Imagine you're the host of a morning news show, and the head of the country's major opposition party has just invoked the danger of the President of the United States turning the country into a police state akin to Iran. Would you perhaps ask a follow-up question challenging your guest to substantiate his inflammatory remark? No, you wouldn't. At least, not if you're GMA's Charlie Gibson. For when Howard Dean made just such an allegation this morning, Gibson never blinked.
Discussing the NSA terrorist surveillance program, Dean stated:
"All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran, where the President of Iran can do anything they [sic] want at any time."
Hardball's screen graphic "Global Fury" presumably referred to the rioting over the Mohammed cartoons. But it might also have been a subliminally sardonic comment about Chris Matthews' guest, Amy Goodman, host of the far-left radio show "Democracy Now."
If Hillary is angry, perhaps she's taken lessons from Goodman. This is one angry woman. Goodman's explanation by way of a justification of the rioting?
"This is about people feeling marginalized. This has to do with the war in Iraq, this has to do with 'the Occupation' [translation: Israel's claim to a right to exist], this is about hundreds being held at Guantanamo with the Koran being desecrated."
The debate over the propriety of intelligence-gathering by the Bush administration is complicated, and the programs themselves can lose their secrecy (and effectiveness) the more they are debated. The media aren’t monitoring the debate. They started the fight by blowing the lid off the NSA activity in the New York Times, and they’re pushing the fight day and night, clearly coming down against Bush, that arrogantly unconstitutional rogue.
When given a choice between more information about our intelligence-gathering methods and less safety, or less information about our intelligence-gathering and more safety, which do the public choose? The public tends to prefer more safety. The media prefer more information. And the media would prefer the public believe it agrees with them, even if it has to cook a few surveys to establish that canard.
In his web chat today, Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten stated that there was "nothing wrong" with Tom Toles' now (in)famous amputee cartoon -- a cartoon which, in Weingarten's words, "is deeply critical of a callous administration that deserves deep criticism."
Here's the Q&A from the chat:
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Gene - You are the arbiter of all that is funny. What are your thoughts on the recent controversy over Tom Toles' cartoon depicting a soldier who had lost both arms and legs in Iraq? Does it cross the line, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are claiming?
Citing liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter as his authority on whether President Bush's actions were “illegal,” and with “Invoking the 'I' Word” on screen beneath a picture of Bush, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened his Monday night Countdown program: “So if the Republican Chairman of the Senate committee investigating the wiretaps says the wiretaps were illegal, and the President says he personally authorized the wiretaps, doesn't that mean the President should be impeached?"
Olbermann proceeded to fondly recall, without any notion that those hearings led to impairing intelligence agencies, how back in the 1970s, “Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho and other lawmakers became the first to lift the veil on the super-secret world of the National Security Agency. Our fifth story on the Countdown: Deja vu all over again. New President, new technology, same danger, perhaps. Today's re-make of the cautionary drama beginning with promise, Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, repeating, in milder form, his Sunday talk show conclusions that the present-day spying program is or could be illegal." Olbermann soon cued up his guest, John Dean: “Not to put too fine a point on this, but if the authorization of wiretaps without warrants is indeed illegal, as its critics say it is, has the President committed an impeachable offense?” Dean agreed: “Well he certainly has.” (Transcript follows.)
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for most of the day, yesterday, explaining in some detail why the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program is legal, why it's necessary, and why it is not "domestic spying." It was the lead news story on CBS' The Early Show this morning, and they demonstrated that, while they saw it, it didn't all meet their criteria for news. Obviously, you cannot capture the entirety of an 8-hour hearing in a 2-minute report, but, as always, it is instructive to see what makes the cut, and what doesn't. Here are some of the comments from the hearing, a couple from Attorney General Gonzales and a couple from different US Senators.
Over at www.mrc.org, we’ve just posted a new study of how ABC, CBS and NBC have covered the NSA surveillance story. It's just as awful as you expected — most network stories were framed around the idea that the program is probably illegal and a shocking violation of Americans’ civil liberties.
Maybe the most interesting statistic is how reporters themselves refer to the targets of NSA’s surveillance. Most of the time, it’s either “domestic spying” or “spying on U.S. citizens,” categories that account for 84% of journalists’ descriptions. Only about one-sixth of the reporters descriptions point out that the targets are either “U.S. citizens suspected of ties to al-Qaeda” or “suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.”
More than two dozen people, including children, assembled in front of the Inquirer building this morning to protest the reprinting of a Danish cartoon that has sparked angry denunciations and demonstrations across the Muslim world."
The group carried signs with such messages as "No to Hate," "Peaceful Protest for Religious Tolerance," and "Distasteful Journalism."
Amanda Bennett, editor of The Inquirer, spoke to the group.
"I went out to talk to them, and told them that neither I nor the newspaper meant any disrespect to their religion or their prophet. I invited them to write their views for publication in our newspaper. Several people, both women and men, suggested that this might be the occasion to start a better dialogue between the paper and the Muslim community in the greater Philadelphia area. I agreed, and asked the leaders to contact me so that we could get a meeting together between members of their community and the newspaper."
Here CBS goes again. Today, with the aid of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on President Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, CBS’s The Early Show was able to once again focus on "domestic spying." Three times in the first 9 minutes of the 7:00 half hour, there was a mention of "domestic spying."
Harry Smith led off the broadcast at 7:00 with the following tease:
Harry Smith: "Good morning, I'm Harry Smith, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be on the hot seat today defending President Bush's highly controversialdomestic spying program at a Senate hearing, we'll have details."
One would hope and expect a liberal newspaper like the New York Times to have the meager virtue of consistency on matters of freedom of expression, particularly in defense of another newspaper. As the world now knows, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad last September, considered taboo (though not always recognized as such) by Muslims.
But Times reporter Craig Smith apparently found the cartoons themselves far more inflammatory than he did the actual rioting of Muslims burning embassies in Syria and Lebanon. Even the headline to his Sunday Week in Review story suggests the Danish newspaper's exercise of free speech was somehow irresponsible, likening it to pouring fuel on a flame: “Adding Newsprint to the Fire.”
Michael Hayden, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, appeared on both Fox News Sunday and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, but though at a Senate hearing just three days earlier Hayden and other intelligence officials had cited the potential damage caused by the New York Times story disclosing the program to eavesdrop on al-Qaeda communication inside the U.S., only Fox's Chris Wallace raised the subject. Stephanopoulos was more interested in himself as a potential victim of big brother: “Let me try to give you a hypothetical, see if you can answer it. I went to Pakistan after 9/11. I interviewed a Taliban representative. If after that interview, that person calls me, am I captured?” Wallace asked: "You and other top officials say that disclosure of this program has harmed national security. Do you mean that just in theory, or in fact? Has publication of the New York Times story, to the best of your reckoning, actually changed the way terrorists do business? Do you feel that they're acting differently since this story broke out?" Hayden would only say that the success of American intelligence “is not immune from the disclosure of its techniques and procedures to our enemy." (Brief transcripts follow.)
Today's Matt Lauer scored a Jerome Bettis-sized TD this morning by asking a question regarding the current Muslim rioting that was as unexpected as it was perspicacious. Meanwhile, former Clinton diplomat Bill Richardson offered the instinctive Democratic response to a threat to our security: bring on the UN!
Richardson, currently the New Mexico governor, described the grim state of the Muslim world: "I've never seen the situation so dire with with the threats from Iran, the victory of Hamas, the escape of Badawi in Yemen. This is a very dangerous situation. It seems that the Muslim world is exploding."
The Communist Backed group, The World Can't Wait, held an anti-Bush rally in DC yesterday. Stories carried by the Washington Post and the AP included a picture or two from the rally. Interestingly neither media organization bothered to include the photo of the protest sign depicting a beheaded President Bush. In light of the signs of protest against the Danish cartoons, it is a shame that the media refuses to cover the level of hatred against the President of the United States here in America.
The mainstream press absolutely refuses to cast the NSA terrorist surveillance program in anything other than a negative light. The latest example is this piece from Time Magazine. In addition to continued use of the adjective "domestic" when talking about international calls ("U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales speaks about domestic wiretapping policies at Georgetown University"), the article focuses on AG Gonzales' expected testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary committee this coming week.
Specter's hearing, which is scheduled to last most of Monday, will focus on presidential powers in wartime and will examine whether Bush took legal shortcuts in implementing the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor communications involving suspected al-Qaeda members if one party to the conversation is inside the U.S. The program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and was exposed by the New York Times in December. Since then, lawmakers have complained that the administration's legal arguments are shaky, and have contended that briefings for the House and Senate intelligence committees were inadequate or misleading.
Hey, I'm a multi-culturalist. I'm happy to see people observing their various religious holidays, from Christmas to Chanukah to Ramadan. But somehow, my multicultural enthusiasms run out of steam when it comes to . . . condoning the sacking of foreign embassies.
Not Julian Phillips. The co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend blithely condoned the current rioting and burning of foreign embassies around the world by Muslims angered by depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. His explanation-by-way-of-excuse: "different religion, different culture."
In the course of the show's opening segment, Fox's Yasmina Ykelenstam reported live from Beirut, where rioters had set fire to the Danish embassy. She reported that there has been violence across the city, including at the Norwegian embassy, and cars smashed and burned. Back in the studio, Kiran Chetry reported that in Damascus, Syria, rioters had also set fire to the Danish embassy.
In an especially contentious exchange on this evening's Hannity and Colmes (Friday February 3, 2006), cantankerous cartoonist Ted Rall, a guest on the program, unbelievably declared, "We do not owe our liberties to the military." The topic was the recent Washington Post cartoon by Tom Toles that has outraged many. The cartoon prompted a letter to the editor (linked at Michelle Malkin) from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who tagged the the work as "beyond tasteless." Needless to say, Rall (who himself has created bigoted trash in the past) defended Toles' cruel piece. Here's the relevant exchange (audiotape on file, emphasis mine):
SEAN HANNITY: Here's what you're missing. The reason that you have the right to be mean, and you were mean to this guy [killed in Afghanistan, former NFL star Pat] Tillman, who gave up a football contract to save his country. The reason you have the right to be mean in your cartoons, and Toles has a right to mean and insensitive in his cartoons, is because of people like this (Sean holds up the WaPo cartoon) that literally put their lives on the line so you have the right for free expression. And you insult them and use them as props so you can make your left-wing political points.
RALL: Sean, you could not possibly be more wrong about the nature of this country. We do not owe our liberties to the military. We owe them to the Constitution. We have civilian rule in the United States --
Let's give Today its due. It devoted extended coverage this morning to the growing nuclear threat from Iran. In Katie Couric's interview of Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, it was quickly established that Iran does indeed represent a serious danger. Much of the conversation involved a discussion of the various options - none of them ideal - to address the threat. One might argue that Haass' estimate that Iran remains five years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon is dangerously optimistic, but he did not attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation.
But, inevitably, Katie turned the talk to what she deemed domestic spying, alternatively dubbing it, with a wry smile, "the terrorist surveillance program."
ABC and NBC, on Thursday night, didn’t find CIA Director Porter Goss’s lambasting of leakers and the news media, for publicizing secret information, very newsworthy. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer, however, noted that at a Senate hearing the intelligence officials who testified “seemed at one point as concerned about leaks to the news media as the nuclear threat" from Iran and CBS reporter David Martin pointed out how “the leak that dominated the hearing was the New York Times story about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.” Roberts also highlighted how “CIA Director Goss delivered a tirade against news leaks." But ABC’s World News Tonight ignored the topic completely, confining itself to an anchor-brief about testimony on the continuing threat from al-Qaeda, while NBC’s Andrea Mitchell allocated a mere eleven seconds to how the intelligence officials "claim the leaks about domestic eavesdropping have already disrupted valuable operations against terrorists," compared to nearly three times more time -- 29 seconds -- to how “Democrats were outraged that the administration still won't provide more details about its domestic spying" as well as how the administration won’t “say how many people are being wiretapped." (More of what Goss and Michael Hayden said, and newscast transcripts, follow.)
AFP (Agence France Presse) reports from Doha, Qatar, that President Clinton denounced the cartoons of Muhammad with a bomb for a hat and other "outrageous" cartoons. But Laura Ingraham made a good point today: why is he stumping for the Danish-flag-burning Islamic fanatics, feeling their pain, and having no comment on the Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles using our military amputees as a punch line? Here's a piece of the AFP report:
Former US president Bill Clinton warned of rising anti-Islamic prejudice, comparing it to historic anti-Semitism as he condemned the publishing of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
The Boston Globe is not exactly breaking news on its front page this morning, running a story in which they found "legal specialists" who were willing to call the President a liar. This matches, of course, the general position of the Boston Globe on the Bush administration, so these specialists are credible and believable, and warrant front-page mention.
Legal specialists yesterday questioned the accuracy of President Bush's sweeping contentions about the legality of his domestic spying program, particularly his assertion in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that "previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have."
Blogger/syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is covering fallout from the Washington Post's decision to publish, on January 29, a cartoon by Tom Toles that appears to make light of the fact that some soldiers and Marines have suffered grievous combat injuries.
Michelle is providing her readers with a full copy of a letter to the Post sent January 31 by all six of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The letter reads, in part: