Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What’s That You Say?

[[C O R R E C T I O N S]] * It’s reassuring to see that not every media outlet in the United States has forgotten its obligation to present the facts as they can be understood and to point out fabrications perpetrated by the powerful. Following up on George W. Bush’s defense, during last night’s State of the Union address, of his once-secret domestic surveillance program, the Los Angeles Times questions the prez’s assertions that “previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority” that he did, and that “federal courts have approved the use of that authority.” That reference, according to the Times, “marked one of several points in his speech in which he backed up assertions with selective uses of fact, or seemed to place a positive spin on his own interpretation.” As staff reporters Peter Wallsten and Maura Reynolds explain today:

Bush did not name names, but was apparently reiterating the argument offered earlier this month by Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, who invoked Presidents Lincoln, Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt for their use of executive authority.

However, warrantless surveillance within the United States for national security purposes was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972--long after Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt stopped issuing orders. That led to the 1978 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Bush essentially bypassed in authorizing the program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Though it is always difficult to fact-check Bush’s speeches, so fraught are they with politically motivated distortions, the Times should be commended for taking the time in this case. If only all U.S. print, broadcast, and Internet media were as concerned about presenting the truth over “truthiness.”

READ MORE:Bush on Spying, or the ‘Duty to Speak With Candor’ Revisited,” by Tim Grieve (Salon); “In Realm of Political Illusion, the World’s a Stage,” by Gene Lyons (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette).

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