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A 9/11 Victim Teams Up With FOX News To Stump For The Patriot Act And Domestic Spying

Reported by Ellen - January 31, 2006

Judging from the number of pro-Patriot Act and pro-domestic spying discussions I have seen recently on FOX News, the Bush Administration must be very, very worried about public opinion on these matters (as well they should be). Last night, Hannity & Colmes brought on Debra Burlingame, the relative of a 9/11 victim in support of domestic spying and the Patriot Act. Sean Hannity tried to make her look like a spokesperson for all 9/11 victims.

Hannity introduced the discussion by using the president’s preferred term for domestic spying. “When the details of the president’s secret program for monitoring terrorist communications (my emphasis) was leaked late last year, his critics, predictably went into overdrive but how do those who have actually lost loved ones to terrorism feel about the controversy?” Hannity’s use of the plurals, “those” and “loved ones,” implied that there are more Burlingames out there and conveniently overlooked that many other 9/11 victims (The Jersey Girls, e.g.,) are far less supportive of the president. But “fair and balanced” FOX News chose only one guest for this segment.

Debra Burlingame is the sister of a 9/11 pilot. She started out with the racist statement that her brother “would NEVER give his plane over to a bunch of Arab men, agitated Arab men who can’t speak English, breaking into his cockpit with knives.”

It turns out Burlingame just wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal saying, “It’s fairly shocking that there’s anyone in Washington who could politicize the Patriot Act.” Then, proving that neither of them had a problem doing exactly that, Hannity summarized an excerpt saying that “an exclusive story in 2004… recounted how the people that hijacked your brother’s plane received more than a dozen calls from an Al Qaeda switchboard inside Yemen. Tie this all together with the NSA program and the Patriot Act and why you wrote this very hard-hitting piece.”

Predictably, Burlingame told Hannity that “people don’t understand” that FISA warrants don’t work for cell phones, the internet, etc. and that it just takes too long to get one, even after the fact. Is Burlingame a lawyer? An expert in national security or FISA warrants? Nobody said. FOX News seemed to believe that the only credentials she needed were 1) she lost a relative on 9/11 and 2) she supports the Patriot Act and domestic spying without a warrant.

Alan Colmes did an excellent job debating the sympathetic (except for the anti-Arab comment) Burlingame. Starting off by offering his condolences, Colmes added that one of the great things about our country is that people can disagree over policy. Burlingame nodded and said, “Sure.”

Colmes then said that “A lot of even conservatives don’t feel that the Patriot Act is the right way to go.” He added that the 9/11 Commission found “a whole number of other things – not about the NSA, not about eavesdropping … not the Patriot Act, but specific things that the 9/11 Commission said that we could have done – having nothing to do with additional legislation or eavesdropping on Americans.”

Burlingame claimed that was “kind of not true” because of “the wall” between criminal investigations and intelligence which the Patriot Act “corrected.”

They spent the rest of the discussion debating the wall, how it got started and whether Clintonista Jamie Gorelick just re-certified it, as Colmes said the 9/11 Commission found, or whether she “made it higher,” as Burlingame claimed, without explaining how or citing any sources.

Comment: It would have been great if Colmes had emphasized his original point by touching on what information the government had about the terror threats before 9/11 but failed to follow up (the 8/01 Presidential Daily Briefing titled “bin Laden determined to strike in US,” the warnings about suspicious student pilots, etc.), and then asked why it still needed to snoop into people’s library records. However, after a week of watching Colmes’ pathetic substitutes, Susan Estrich and Bob Beckel, who each would have spent 90% of their time agreeing with Burlingame and the other 10% disagreeing with Democrats, I was thrilled that Colmes made the point at all.

Something tells me we’ll see more of Burlingame on FOX News in the weeks to come.

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