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FOX News And The GOP Try To Spin The Controversy About Bush Spying On Americans Into A National Security Issue And Away From Questions About Whether Bush Broke The Law.

Reported by Ellen - December 28, 2005

Alan Colmes was in rare form last night during a Hannity & Colmes discussion of Bush’s unauthorized spying on Americans. FOX News and the Republicans tried to frame the discussion as a national security debate but Colmes and civil rights attorney Michael Gross refused to budge from the position that the issue is about following the law.

The Hannity & Colmes website makes it pretty clear that FOX News is trying to spin the controversy away from Bush's illegal actions. "Will there be a Congressional investigation into who leaked the NSA secret spying story? Should there be? Isn't this story just as important as the Valerie Plame/CIA leak? "

Substitute co-host Mike Gallagher’s introduction to the discussion also conveniently skirted the criminal element. “President Bush continues to defend his decision to approve a program for domestic surveillance without warrants, saying it’s vital for American security. He’s also blasting the recent leaks of this and related programs as ‘shameless.’ Some conservatives are calling for investigations into the leaks.”

Attorney Gross started off by contrasting the NSA leaker, whom he described as a whistle blower, with the Valerie Plame leak, which he said was for retribution. “Don’t throw a smokescreen over what really went wrong here.”

Gallagher tried to argue that the NSA leak was made because one of the New York Times reporters has a book coming out.

Gross wisely avoided the detour. “Nobody’s going to get diverted from focusing on this significant issue here.” He said the law is clear. If Bush didn’t get a warrant from the FISA court, he committed a crime.

Gallagher dismissed the concern about the president following the law as “squawking about warrants.”

The other guest, Ron Christie, “former adviser to President Bush,” repeatedly made the argument that Bush is “doing everything under the law to protect the American people.”

Comment: The Bush as protector argument might sit better if the images weren’t so fresh of Bush playing the guitar and telling his crony FEMA appointee “you’re doing a heckuva job” while New Orleans drowned.

Christie then parroted the GOP falsehood that former Presidents Clinton and Carter “recognized that… there’s an inherent power under the Constitution to conduct certain searches without a warrant."

Comment: As Media Matters has carefully explained, “executive orders on the topic by Clinton and Carter were merely explaining the rules established by FISA, which do not allow for warrantless searches on ‘United States persons.’”

Then it was Alan Colmes’ turn. He started off by demanding, “Tell me, exactly, what law or cite the passage of the Constitution that gives the president the right to do this without a warrant. Where is that? I’d like to know.”

Christie started to explain that Article 2 of the Constitution grants the president the power to protect and uphold the Constitution.

“You’re avoiding the issue… The Fourth Amendment is the operative Amendment here and you don’t want to acknowledge that it talks about warrants specifically.” He added that Tom Daschle has stated that the president had sought “domestic capability,” had been denied it by Congress, then did it anyway.

Christie told Lie #2, that the FISA court ruling in 2002 allows warrantless searches. See Media Matters’ explanation as to why Christie's reference to this ruling is a red herring.

Colmes didn’t buy it. He didn’t finish asking Christie “Where does it say ‘warrantless searches?’” before turning to Gross and saying that one could go to the FISA court for a warrant 72 hours AFTER a search.

Gross agreed. “There is absolutely no excuse.” He said that if Bush wanted more power, he should have gone to Congress to get it.

Christie then complained that it drives him “absolutely nuts” to hear people talking about Valerie Plame as “this poor woman who was outed, someone who was in Vanity Fair…”

Colmes interrupted again to say that Plame’s picture in Vanity Fair appeared after her outing. “Let’s get the timeline here,” he insisted.

Next, Christie tried to paint the NSA whistle-blowing as a serious breach of national security. Colmes didn’t let him finish before asking, “Why is it you’re all concerned about a whistle blower but you’re not concerned about who leaked the identity of a CIA agent that could have also caused death… It compromised national security. It seems like there’s a double standard here because I don’t hear any conservatives upset about that particular leak.”

Christie attempted to argue that Bush “wanted all the facts to be known” in the Plame leak.

“Come on. You know the president could easily find out who leaked… You don’t think he knows who leaked out of his own White House? …What was leaked (about the NSA) was that the president may have broken the law. The president didn’t want it to come out and that’s why he called The New York Times in. He doesn’t want it underscored that he may be lawbreaking.”

Gross asked, “Why would he knowingly, intelligently and arrogantly break the law? Why not go to Congress and debate this openly? Why can’t we know why he needs this information?” Gross added that Bush has arrogantly abused his power.

Gallagher interrupted to take his second turn, though he claimed it was “because you guys are squawking about warrantless searches… Let’s squawk about Bill Clinton and his warrantless searches.” He then repeated the GOP falsehood about Clinton and Carter authorizing warrantless searches.

Gross then came up with the best answer to the GOP “Clinton did it” mantra I have ever heard. “And Jefferson owned slaves. What does that have to do with it?”

My verdict: Gallagher and Christie fought the law and the law won.

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