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Why Sean Hannity And GOP Attorney Have No Problem With Bush Ordering Illegal Spying On Americans: What If Osama Bin Laden Is Calling?

Reported by Ellen - December 19, 2005

Friday night (12/16/05), on Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity and Republican former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing made the ridiculous claim that it doesn't matter if President Bush broke the law and authorized spying on Americans because Osama bin Laden might be on the phone.

Attorney Toensing didn't bother to argue that President Bush's authorization to allow secret spying on Americans was legal. This former high-ranking official in the Justice Department evidently had no problem with the president breaking the law because, she said, current laws aren't good enough to protect against terrorism. "Picture this, what if Osama bin Laden is making a phone call to the United States? Do people really think that the government should then say 'Oh, my goodness, we're now monitoring a US citizen and we should hang up?' That's what this is all about."

Hannity pretended that the whole issue was just a matter of politics from the "anti-Bush New York Times," ignoring the fact that the Times sat on the story for a year at the White House's request. Hannity demanded of the other guest, Andrew Fois, a Democratic former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, "What law was broken?"

Unfortunately, Fois proved to be another in FOX's inexhaustible supply of nice, likeable but inept Democratic spokespeople. Astoundingly, he was unable to say what law was broken. He answered, "We're supposed to do everything we can consistent with the law. Well, there's no law authorizing this so what was broken was the Constitution that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures."

That left Alan Colmes to do the explaining for Fois. Colmes is not an attorney but, thank goodness, he was at the top of his game. "Actually, by law you need, as I understand it... a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court whenever you eavesdrop within the United States."

Attorney Toensing seemed to have no concern about whether or not any laws had been brokenl. She ignored Colmes' assertion and spoke as if she were trying out for the part of Nurse Ratched. "Alan? No, no, no, no... Now let's go back to my example... Osama bin Laden, now we're monitoring all his calls. Wouldn't THAT be wonderful? And he calls somebody in the United States. Do you want us to hang up?" Channelling Hannity, she asked, "Yes or no, Alan."

But Colmes, who watches Hannity pull that trick every day, didn't fall for it. Rather than answer her gotcha question, he replied that there is a lawful process to monitor calls and that the law may have been broken. "Why are you so cavalier about it?"

Toensing sputtered before she answered. Dripping with syrupy condescension, she told Colmes, "Because I understand how that works. It takes two to three months to get a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap... If you've just got a phone call right now, you're listening to Osama bin Laden and he's calling the United States... "

Colmes asked, "Is there any evidence that it happened? Osama bin Laden calling the United States? This is riding roughshod over the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment."

Toensing spoke to Colmes as if he were a child. "Alan, you want to ignore this." Baring her teeth in an imperious smile, she ducked the question by telling HIM, "You don't want to talk about it."

Turning to Fois, Colmes said, "This, by the way, the conservative point of view would be, get the government out of our lives. This is a privacy issue. This could be a violation of the Fourth Amendment."

Fois agreed. But rather than hammer on why it's a privacy issue, why the government doesn't need to do it, shouldn't do it and is forbidden from doing it, Fois said, "Exactly. And that's why Senator Specter called this 'unacceptable.' That's why Senator McCain said there must be an immediate investigation and what Victoria is forgetting is in order to know that Osama bin Laden is calling, you're going to have to have tapped the American citizen's phone in the United States to get that call."

Toensing said, "Stop. Time out." Still talking down to everyone she said that NSA can target an overseas telephone and pick up calls to the US that way. (Maybe they can, but she didn't say that's what they did.)

Comment: If the feds were able to tap Osama bin Laden's phone, wouldn't they be nabbing him rather than just waiting to see who he might call? It seemed a no-brainer to me but Fois played along with her absurd scenario. "What this article says is what they're doing now under this program is tapping Victoria Toensing's line in case Osama bin Laden calls her."

That gave Hannity the opening he was looking for. "Andrew, last question, yes or no. If Osama calls, do you think by law that we should have to hang up?"

Fois fell into the trap. "Not if it means trampling on the rights of Sean Hannity and Victoria Toensing."

Sarcastically, Hannity said, "Wow, so you say hang up on Osama bin Laden."

Colmes asked, "Is there any evidence that that happened?"

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