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FOX News’ Harris Faulkner Whitewashes Patriot Act Abuse

Reported by Ellen - March 11, 2007 -

FOX News anchor Harris Faulkner once again worked in a hefty dose of Bush administration spin into her reporting, this time on the FBI abuse of the Patriot Act. During the news break in the middle of Friday night’s Hannity & Colmes (3/9/07), Faulkner hid the fact the FBI broke the law and improperly invaded peoples’ privacy. Instead, she painted the issue as a minor, bureaucratic error. With video.

Faulkner started by noting that a Justice Department audit found that the FBI “improperly used the Patriot Act.” She continued, “An internal audit found at times agents did not understand the rules for how to handle administrative subpoenas known as national security letters.” She added a chirpy “However investigators insist there was no criminal misconduct.”

Faulkner made the whole thing sound like a little misunderstanding, rather than a massive and improper invasion of people’s privacy. Her vagueness conveniently hid the fact that the FBI did not follow the law as it went about secretly obtaining personal information about people in the United States and then underreported how often it was gathering that information. For example, an AP report (AP is the wire service FOX News uses) on this issue begins, "The FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, underreporting for three years how often it forced businesses to turn over customer data, a Justice Department audit found." The AP report also notes that since the Patriot Act was passed, the number of such requests has skyrocked. In 2000, the number of national security letters issued was 8,500 but in 2005, approximately 47,000 such subpoenas were secretly issued.

Faulkner’s conclusion that investigators “insist there was no criminal misconduct” is quite misleading as well. The AP report said there was “no indication” of criminal misconduct. But, as that article had already reported that the law had been violated, (hence, criminal conduct had already occurred), I suspect they meant there was no evidence of criminal intent. Lack of criminal intent is how the New York Times reported it in its March 9, 2007 article. “The report found many instances when national security letters… were improperly, and sometimes illegally, used… Mr. Mueller emphasized that the report determined that the lapses were a result of errors rather than criminal or malicious intent.”

There was no discussion about this issue on Friday night’s Hannity & Colmes.