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Nets Skip Weaknesses in NSA Surveillance Ruling by Liberal Judge --8/18/2006


1. Nets Skip Weaknesses in NSA Surveillance Ruling by Liberal Judge
All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday covered the ruling by a federal judge against the Bush administration's controversial NSA spying program that involves warrantless monitoring of international phone calls when one participant is a terrorist suspect. Stemming from a case filed by the ACLU and other plaintiffs, Judge Ann Diggs Taylor, a Detroit-based Carter appointee, found the program to be unconstitutional. Unlike CNN and FNC, which conveyed that the ruling would likely be overturned, none of the network evening newscasts mentioned the liberal credentials of Judge Taylor or the debate over judicial activism and legal weaknesses in the ruling, such as the issue of whether the plaintiffs had standing to file the lawsuit, since the plaintiffs themselves were not found to be the subjects of surveillance.

2. CNN's Cafferty Applauds Judge for Chiding Bush's 'Abuse of Power'
During the 4pm EDT hour of Thursday's The Situation Room on CNN, Jack Cafferty endorsed a U.S. district court judge's ruling, that the National Security Agency's terrorist surveillance program is unconstitutional, as a proper indictment of Bush policies: "There are laws on the books against what the administration is doing and it's about time somebody said it out loud." Cafferty attacked the "arrogant" Bush administration for its supposed "abuse of power" and accused the President of lying to the American people and violating his oath of office: "So what does this mean? It means President Bush violated his oath of office, among other things, when he swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It means he's been lying to us about the program since it started, when he's been telling us there's nothing illegal about what he's doing."

3. ABC's GMA Sees 'Sinister' Motive from Allen, Presumes He's Racist
ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday devoted a full story, in the 7am half hour, to a report which presumed likely Republican presidential candidate George Allen had uttered an ethnic insult against an Indian when he mocked a volunteer for his Senate opponent, who was filming him, as "Macaca." But back in July, when assumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden quipped before a video camera that "you cannot go into a Dunkin' Donuts or a 7-Eleven unless you have a slight Indian accent," the ABC morning show limited coverage to a few seconds on a weekend morning and did not presume he had any hostile intent. In contrast, GMA co-host Bill Weir nefariously asked of Allen: "Is this just an innocent case of foot-in-mouth disease or something more sinister?" Reporter Jessica Yellin soon judged Allen by the standard espoused by his liberal opponents: "It's not the first time Senator Allen has been accused of racial insensitivity. As Governor, he issued a proclamation praising the Confederacy without mentioning slavery." Yellin also highlighted how Ryan Lizza of The New Republic "has written about what he's called Allen's race problem, and he says this new video could cripple the Senator's presidential ambitions."

4. Letterman's 'Top Ten Bill Clinton 60th Birthday Plans'
From Wednesday's Late Show, the "Top Ten Bill Clinton 60th Birthday Plans."


Nets Skip Weaknesses in NSA Surveillance
Ruling by Liberal Judge

All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday covered the ruling by a federal judge against the Bush administration's controversial NSA spying program that involves warrantless monitoring of international phone calls when one participant is a terrorist suspect. Stemming from a case filed by the ACLU and other plaintiffs, Judge Ann Diggs Taylor, a Detroit-based Carter appointee, found the program to be unconstitutional. Unlike CNN and FNC, which conveyed that the ruling would likely be overturned, none of the network evening newscasts mentioned the liberal credentials of Judge Taylor or the debate over judicial activism and legal weaknesses in the ruling, such as the issue of whether the plaintiffs had standing to file the lawsuit, since the plaintiffs themselves were not found to be the subjects of surveillance.

[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

On ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, Gibson introduced the story of the "major legal defeat" for the Bush administration, and correspondent Martha Raddatz filed a full report on the ruling in which she described the ruling as a "significant blow" to the administration, showing a soundbite of plaintiff James Bamford arguing that the ruling means the President "isn't a king." While she did at least provide some balance by relaying that "many national security experts" argue the program is essential, followed by a supporting soundbite from James Garafano of the Heritage Foundation, Raddatz did not delve into any legal weaknesses of the ruling itself.

The CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News only ran anchor-read stories, during which CBS's Bob Schieffer, uniquely among the networks, pointed out that those subjected to surveillance were "suspected of having ties to terrorists." And while ABC's Gibson did at least mention that the surveillance involved "overseas phone calls from this country," NBC's Campbell Brown did not even mention the international nature of the calls, while the words "Domestic Surveillance" were displayed on the screen next to her. Brown relayed that Judge Taylor "harshly condemned" the program.

By contrast, as noticed by the MRC's Megan McCormack (see item #2 below), on CNN's The Situation Room, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin conveyed that "this was a very liberal judge" who "almost exclusively cites other liberal judges." Toobin informed viewers that the case was likely to be overturned as he was "certain that other courts will see this differently."

On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, correspondent Bret Baier mentioned that Judge Taylor was a Carter appointee, and the show also gave attention to the debate over whether the plaintiffs in the case had standing to file their lawsuit. During the "Fox All Stars" panel segment, Fortune magazine's Nina Easton talked about feedback she had received that the "legal reasoning on it was thin," and addressed the issue of standing:
"And this question of the standing of these folks you're talking about, the scholars and the journalists and so on, and whether they actually had standing to bring this suit, well, she [Judge Taylor] wrestled with some of those questions, but then she dismissed the other concerns, saying, well, if they don't have standing, then who's going to keep the President, who's going to keep the President, hold his feet to the fire and who's going to let courts come in and hold him accountable? It's like, well, I gotta give him standing, and so I thought that was extremely telling."

Below are complete transcripts of the stories that ran on the August 17 ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, the CBS Evening News, and the NBC Nightly News, along with relevant portions of CNN's The Situation Room and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume:

# ABC's World News. Charles Gibson, in opening teaser: "Wiretap case: A federal judge tells the Bush administration one of its main terror-fighting tools violates the Constitution."

After a bunch on JonBenet stories, Gibson arrived at the court ruling: "The Bush administration suffered a major legal defeat today. A federal judge declared its surveillance program of overseas phone calls from this country, conducted without warrants, to be unconstitutional. The President has called the program a crucial tool in the war on terror. We turn to ABC's chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz."

Martha Raddatz: "The wiretap ruling came with stinging criticism from U.S. District Court Judge Ann Diggs Taylor. 'It was never the intent of the Framers to give the President such unfettered control,' said the judge, 'particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights.' Judge Taylor said the administration's failure to obtain warrants for the eavesdropping program violated both the right to privacy and free speech."
James Bamford, plaintiff: "What it says is the President of the United States isn't a king. He's just like every other citizen when it comes to a law."
Raddatz: "The White House response to the ruling: 'We couldn't disagree more.' And the Justice Department immediately appealed the decision."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "We have confidence in the lawfulness of this program, and that's why the appeal has been lodged. This is an important program."
Raddatz: "This is a significant blow to the Bush administration, which has strongly defended the legality and the necessity of the program since its disclosure last December."
George W. Bush: "I believe what I'm doing is constitutional, and I know it's necessary."
Dick Cheney, July 10: "I can tell you the terrorist surveillance program has been absolutely essential."
Raddatz: "And there are many national security experts who agree that the program is essential."
James Garafano, Heritage Foundation: "We just saw a plot broken up. People planned to kill thousands of people. You cannot argue that there's not a serious problem out there. You cannot argue that programs like this don't help."
Raddatz: "Despite the ruling, the spying program will continue, Charlie, until the appeal has been heard. But that could take some time."


# CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer: "A federal judge today also struck down President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program. The National Security Agency has, of course, been monitoring without warrants the international phone calls and emails of Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists. The judge in Detroit said this is a civil rights violation. The administration disagrees, of course, and is appealing."


# NBC Nightly News. Campbell Brown: "And now to the Bush administration's controversial warrantless wiretapping program. A federal judge ruled today that the program is unconstitutional. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor harshly condemned the program saying it violates the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as the 1978 FISA law. The White House said today the administration couldn't disagree more with Taylor's ruling. For now, the program will continue while the ruling is appealed."


# CNN's The Situation Room, 4pm EDT hour. Jeffrey Toobin: "This judge, today's opinion, said it was unconstitutional in very scathing terms. But this was a very liberal judge. You look at the sources she cites in her opinion, she almost exclusively cites other liberal judges. I am virtually certain that other courts will see this differently, and the only way to resolve those sorts of differences is to have it wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court."


# FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. Nina Easton of Fortune magazine: "Well, the feedback I got today was that this is going to be overturned by the Sixth Circuit, and I thought your legal analyst you had on earlier was remarkably measured. I got, some of the feedback I got was that this was overtly ideological, that the legal reasoning on it was thin. And this question of the standing of these folks you're talking about, the scholars and the journalists and so on, and whether they actually had standing to bring this suit, well, she wrestled with some of those questions, but then she dismissed the other concerns, saying, well, if they don't have standing, then who's going to keep the President, who's going to keep the President, hold his feet to the fire and who's going to let courts come in and hold him accountable? It's like, well, I gotta give him standing, and so I thought that was extremely telling. And the opinion very much did read, she is, she's a liberal Democrat, and it did read like an opinion by somebody who had, was very happy to overturn a program that she really didn't like. I mean, there was, you really didn't see any kind of struggle in the reasoning or anything. It was, you know, as a lot of legal scholars thought, thin."

CNN's Cafferty Applauds Judge for Chiding
Bush's 'Abuse of Power'

During the 4pm EDT hour of Thursday's The Situation Room on CNN, Jack Cafferty endorsed a U.S. district court judge's ruling, that the National Security Agency's terrorist surveillance program is unconstitutional, as a proper indictment of Bush policies: "There are laws on the books against what the administration is doing and it's about time somebody said it out loud." Cafferty attacked the "arrogant" Bush administration for its supposed "abuse of power" and accused the President of lying to the American people and violating his oath of office: "So what does this mean? It means President Bush violated his oath of office, among other things, when he swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It means he's been lying to us about the program since it started, when he's been telling us there's nothing illegal about what he's doing."

[This item is adopted from a late Thursday afternoon posting by Megan McCormack, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Interestingly, just minutes before Cafferty applauded the court ruling and Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin acknowledged the liberal leanings of the district court judge and made the point that this issue will not be settled until it is considered by the Supreme Court:
"This judge, today's opinion, said it was unconstitutional in very scathing terms. But this was a very liberal judge. You look at the sources she cites in her opinion, she almost exclusively cites other liberal judges. I am virtually certain that other courts will see this differently, and the only way to resolve those sorts of differences is to have it wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court."

This isn't a new theme for Cafferty. The Thursday, August 3 CyberAlert recounted: Setting up his "Cafferty File" question in the 5pm EDT hour of Wednesday's Situation Room on CNN, "A top House Democrat says the Constitution is in crisis. Do you agree?", Cafferty hailed how "somebody's finally worked up the nerve to say it out loud. We have a constitutional crisis in this country." Cafferty trumpeted how Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, charges there's "an alarming pattern by the Bush administration of operating outside the law and with no meaningful oversight." Cafferty helpfully listed some of the supposed offenses, including "misleading Congress and the American people about the decision to go to war in Iraq; manipulating intelligence about the justification for the war; encouraging torture and degrading treatment of prisoners in Iraq; allowing inappropriate retaliation against critics; and approving unlawful domestic surveillance." For more: www.mediaresearch.org

Now, the full transcript of Cafferty's August 17 rant:
"Wolf, you know, it seems like we're having this discussion about this judge's ruling, sort of, in the abstract, as though there's no precedent for what the judge decided. The judge, in effect, upheld the ruling of the FISA court, which says, if you want to wiretap phones, you need a warrant to do so. The court was created by Congress in 1978, I think it was, and the law of the land says, get a warrant. The actions of the administration have ignored the law of the land in that regard. So it's not a discussion in the abstract. It's not hypothetical. There are laws on the books against what the administration is doing and it's about time somebody said it out loud.
"This federal district judge ruled today President Bush is breaking the law by spying on people in this country without a warrant. The judge said the President is violating the first amendment to the constitution, the fourth amendment to the constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA, passed by Congress, 1978, specifically to prevent this kind of abuse of power. It was being done before. That's why the FISA court was created in the first place.
"So what does this mean? It means President Bush violated his oath of office, among other things, when he swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It means he's been lying to us about the program since it started, when he's been telling us there's nothing illegal about what he's doing. A court has ruled it is illegal. And it means a 75-year-old black female judge in Michigan has finally stepped in and done the job that Congress is supposed to do, namely oversight of the executive branch of government. But the government, the Congress is controlled by the Republicans and they are controlled by the President and they have done nothing in the way of oversight. I hope it means the arrogant inner circle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may finally have to start answering to the people who own that address, that would be us, about how they conduct our country's affairs.
"But we want to know what you think. Here's the question: What does a federal judge's ruling that the NSA spying program is illegal mean for President Bush? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Wolf?"

ABC's GMA Sees 'Sinister' Motive from
Allen, Presumes He's Racist

ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday devoted a full story, in the 7am half hour, to a report which presumed likely Republican presidential candidate George Allen had uttered an ethnic insult against an Indian when he mocked a volunteer for his Senate opponent, who was filming him, as "Macaca." But back in July, when assumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden quipped before a video camera that "you cannot go into a Dunkin' Donuts or a 7-Eleven unless you have a slight Indian accent," the ABC morning show limited coverage to a few seconds on a weekend morning and did not presume he had any hostile intent.

In contrast, GMA co-host Bill Weir nefariously asked of Allen: "Is this just an innocent case of foot-in-mouth disease or something more sinister?" Reporter Jessica Yellin asserted: "Allen is under the microscope for a racially insensitive comment he made. And it was all caught on tape. The video has exploded on the Internet and put Senator George Allen in the hot seat." Yellin soon judged Allen by the standard espoused by his liberal opponents: "It's not the first time Senator Allen has been accused of racial insensitivity. As Governor, he issued a proclamation praising the Confederacy without mentioning slavery." Yellin also highlighted how Ryan Lizza of The New Republic "has written about what he's called Allen's race problem, and he says this new video could cripple the Senator's presidential ambitions."

"In the age of YouTube and the Internet, you can be sure the gaffe will continue to haunt Senator Allen for years to come," Yellin predicted and she did her part to make her forecast come true. Only at the very end of her story, after asking Allen's target if he'd like an apology from the Senator, did Yellin bother with Allen's denial of any hostile intent or of meaning the derogatory racial use of the word in some parts of the world.

Compare the tone of ABC's take on Allen with how the same show presented Biden's gaffe. The MRC's Megan McCormack tracked down this short item from the Saturday, July 8 Good Morning America:

Ron Claiborne: "Delaware Senator Joe Biden is defending a recent remark he made that's generating some controversy. On C-SPAN's Road to the White House, the potential Democratic presidential candidate bragged about his support among immigrants from India."
Biden, in comments caught by C-SPAN: "In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."
Claiborne: "One Indian American group says it is not offended by what Biden said. But another group called the remarks over the top."

A Wednesday CyberAlert item by Tim Graham, "Washington Post Pounds George Allen Over Supposedly Racist Gaffe," recounted how the Post played the story on its front page on Tuesday: www.mediaresearch.org

Tim followed up Wednesday on the MRC's NewsBusters blog with how the Washington Post put the story on page one for a second day in a row: newsbusters.org

A transcript of the August 16 Good Morning America piece:

Bill Weir: "Damage control is under way this morning on the part of a U.S. senator who was caught on tape making what some are calling a racial slur. The senator has apologized. But is this just an innocent case of foot-in-mouth disease or something more sinister? Our Jessica Yellin in Washington has details. Jessica."

Jessica Yellin: "Good morning, Bill. Senator George Allen of Virginia is considered a Republican superstar, a safe bet to keep his seat in the Senate and a serious presidential contender. But how quickly presidential and political fates can change, especially when there is a camera around, because now Allen is under the microscope for a racially insensitive comment he made. And it was all caught on tape. The video has exploded on the Internet and put Senator George Allen in the hot seat."
Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball: "Is this suicide by George Allen?"
Yellin: "It happened at a campaign appearance. The Senator used a little-known racial slur, 'Macaca,' to apparently mock a man of Indian descent."
Senator George Allen, at a campaign rally, via video shot by S.R. Sidarth, a worker for Allen's Senate re-election opponent Jim Webb: "This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, Macaca or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere."
Yellin: "The Senator is pointing to the cameraman shooting this video. He was a volunteer for his opponent's campaign."
Allen: "So welcome. Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
Yellin: "Literally, Macaca describes an Asian monkey. But in Europe and some immigrant communities in America, Macaca is used as a racial slur."
S.R. Sidarth: "I was humiliated."
Yellin: "S.R. Sidarth is the young man Senator Allen was taunting. He didn't need to be welcomed to America. He was born and raised in Allen's state."
Sidarth: "To have race brought up in this day and age in the political context is disgusting."
Yellin: "Would you like the Senator to apologize to you?"
Sidarth: "I think he should. He should make an apology to me in person."
Yellin: "It's not the first time Senator Allen has been accused of racial insensitivity. As Governor, he issued a proclamation praising the Confederacy without mentioning slavery. Ryan Lizza has written about what he's called Allen's race problem, and he says this new video could cripple the senator's presidential ambitions."
Ryan Lizza, New Republic: "I think it's pretty bad. If this guy's going to run for president, this is going to be the first thing that people are going to know about him, and I don't think he's going to overcome it."
Yellin: "In the age of YouTube and the Internet, you can be sure the gaffe will continue to haunt Senator Allen for years to come. The Senator has since issued a statement saying that the word was, quote, 'in no way intended to be racially derogatory,' and he says, quote, 'I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by the misinterpretation of my remarks.' We understand he has not placed a call to Sidarth. Robin?"

Letterman's 'Top Ten Bill Clinton 60th
Birthday Plans'

From the August 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Bill Clinton 60th Birthday Plans." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. The usual -- bucket of KFC and a lap dance

9. Get cracking on second 2,000-page biography

8. Bust open a pinata full of Lipitor

7. It depends on what your definition of the word 'plans' is

6. Thank Letterman for the $10 Radio Shack gift certificate

5. Pretending to be excited when Hillary wears one of her 'sexy' pantsuits to bed

4. Going to Foxwoods with Kofi Annan to catch Regis and Susan Lucci

3. Hit on that cute AARP receptionist

2. Reminding Gore the cake is for everyone

1. In honor of 60, 20-year-old triplets!


The Late Show Web site has yet to post this list (home page link to it goes to Tuesday's Top Ten and direct link comes up as an invalid page), so the MRC's Brad Wilmouth pitched in and transcribed the seven items in the list not recounted in the Wahoo Gazette on the Late Show site.

-- Brent Baker, wrapping up a week in New Hampshire