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FOX News Wastes No Time Spinning Gonzales Hearing On Warrantless Spying

Reported by Ellen - February 6, 2006

Alberto Gonzales is still testifying about warrantless spying on Americans but FOX News already has an article on its website bolstering his position and downplaying the concerns about abuse.

The article starts off by adopting the Bush Administration’s preferred term for warrantless spying, “terrorism surveillance program.”

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday argued that President Bush's terrorism surveillance program is well within the boundaries of presidential authority in the time of war and said it "may make the difference between success and failure" in stopping the next terrorist attack. "As the president has said, if you're talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know it," Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The article continues by trying to lump the criticism of Committee Chairman Republican Senator Arlen Specter in with the opposition Democrats:

Democrats, meanwhile, are accusing the administration of depriving Congress of information about the program and say the program is illegal. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has called Gonzales' legal explanations "strained and unrealistic."

Following that paragraph, there was one brief quote from Senator Patrick Leahy (unidentified as the Committee’s ranking member) explaining some of the objections to the program. "You cannot violate the laws or the rights of ordinary Americans … in America, our America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States," Leahy added. "I think you are violating expressed provisions of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] Act."

That paragraph was followed by five paragraphs giving the Administration’s side of the argument, then this dubious passage which conveniently omits the fact that the FISA laws specifically require a warrant to conduct domestic wiretapping.

Under the program, the secret NSA— which traditionally conducts domestic surveillance overseas — is allowed to wiretap some individuals inside the United States if they are suspected of communicating with someone linked to Al Qaeda or other terror groups abroad. The program does not allow for monitoring of domestic calls where both parties to the communication are within the United States.

Why was Attorney General Gonzales not required to testify under oath, especially if the law is on his side? That question of accountability on the part of the highest-ranking law enforcer in the country was described as a procedural “squabble."

Monday's hearing began with a squabble between Specter and some Democrats about whether Gonzales should be sworn in. Specter said it was unnecessary, saying he has "examined all the facts" and law and "it is my judgment that it is unnecessary to swear [in] the witness."

Four more paragraphs about the “squabble” follow yet “real journalism, fair and balanced” FOX News never reported that Gonzales may have already committed perjury during his confirmation hearings. As Think Progress reports,

While under oath during his confirmation hearings in January 2005 Gonzales dismissed an inquiry by Sen. Russ Feingold questions about warrantless wiretapping as a “hypothetical situation” and said that it is “not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.” In fact, Gonzales had personally approved warrantless domestic wiretapping in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence surveillance act on multiple occasions.

While FOX News highlighted the fact that Gonzales called the “surveillance program indispensable,” that he calls the media reports “misinformed, confused or wrong." (though he surely wasn’t referring to FNC), and that “Republicans blasted whoever was responsible for leaking details of the program to the media, saying it has put the country in a precarious position,” there was virtually no consideration given to some of the very troubling questions raised by the Senators on both sides of the aisle. For example, as Think Progress reports in their excellent and comprehensive coverage:

- Gonzales Refused to Answer Whether Bush Can Authorize Illegal Covert Domestic Propaganda

- Republican Senator Lindsey Graham expressed concerns about the unchecked power of the executive branch. “All I’m saying is the inherent authority argument in its application to me seems to have no boundaries when it comes to executive decisions in a time of war, it deals the Congress and courts out, Mr. Attorney General.”

Also not mentioned is Gonzales’ very dubious explanation that “the President is not a lawyer” in response to Senator Feinstein’s questioning about Bush’s well-known 2004 quote that wiretapping requires a court order.

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