Stephanopoulos Overlooks Huge Hypocrisy in Kerry’s Domestic Spying Position

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos invited former presidential candidate John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) on “This Week” yesterday to discuss a variety of pressing issues facing the nation. Primary amongst them was how the senator felt about domestic spying, and current revelations revealed in a New York Times article last month. During the discussion, Kerry made a rather glaring contradiction (hat tip to reader “JDW”) that should have set off alarm bells in any investigative reporter. Instead, Stephanopoulos gave Kerry a pass.

As the discussion moved in the direction of NSA wiretaps, Stephanopoulos played a clip of Karl Rove saying: “President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats -- some important Democrats clearly disagree.” Stephanopoulos said: “He must have had you in mind. You've called the program a clear violation of the law.” To which Kerry replied: ‘We don't disagree with him at all. It is a violation of law and we don't disagree with him at all and this is exactly what Karl Rove does.”

Stephanopoulos then asked: “How can you think it's a violation and not disagree?” In the middle of a long answer, Kerry said: “We're prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer, but we put a procedure in place to protect the constitutional rights of Americans and what I believe, George, and I believe it deeply, is you can protect the United States of America without devoiding, without ignoring the constitution of the country.”

As this exchange ensued, Stephanopoulos said: “So you're open to changing the law.” To which Kerry replied: “Of course, if you need to protect, but show us how you can't do what you need to do today. They're never done that. There's nothing in the FISA law that we passed that suggests the president has this power.”

Then came the contradiction. Stephanopoulus asked: “So if you think this is a clear violation of the law why not move to cut off funding for the program?” And the senator responded, “That's premature.”

Excuse me? This program is "illegal," is a "violation of the law," was supposedly never approved by Congress, but it would be “premature” to stop funding it?

Now, one would expect a truly adept investigative reporter and astute commentator to have jumped on this. Instead, Stephanopoulos’ next question was: “You know, I want to get to, I want to get to Abramoff in a minute. Let me ask you a little bit more on this, on this. You say it's premature to cut off funding for the program. Al Gore says it may be an impeachable offense and he's called for a special counsel to investigate the entire matter. Do you agree with that?”

Hmmm. So rather than focusing on this glaring contradiction and hypocrisy, George wanted Kerry’s opinion about whether this was an impeachable offense? Excuse me? Wouldn’t you first want to establish why it’s premature to cut off funding for an “illegal” program that is a “violation of law” before you move on to discussing impeachment? Wouldn’t it be absurd for Congress to discuss impeaching a president for a program that it continued to fund after its existence and illegality were identified?

I guess in Stephanopoulos’ world, the answer is “No!”

What follows is a full transcript of this exchange taken from LexisNexis.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) But let's, well, that's what I want to get to, an issue now is warrantless wiretaps, the president's program, Karl Rove was back out on Friday defending the program and being very aggressive. Here's what he said.

KARL ROVE (POLITICAL ADVISOR): President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats -- some important Democrats clearly disagree.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) He must have had you in mind. You've called the program a clear violation of the law.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: We don't disagree with him at all. It is a violation of law and we don't disagree with him at all and this is exactly what Karl Rove does. Let me tell you something.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) How can you think it's a violation and not disagree?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Osama bin Laden is gonna die of kidney failure before he's killed by Karl Rove and his crowd and all he does is divide America over this issue and exploit it. And what he's trying to pretend is that somehow Democrats don't want to eavesdrop appropriately to protect the country. That's a lie. We're prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer, but we put a procedure in place to protect the constitutional rights of Americans and what I believe, George, and I believe it deeply, is you can protect the United States of America without devoiding, without ignoring the constitution of the country.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) Intelligence officials, and I've spoken to some of them, say it's just not practical. You can't run this kind of a detection program through the current FISA court.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Then come to us and tell us how you can do it so that you need some more blanket form of doing it. There's a way to protect the constitution and not go off on your own and violate it. That's the simple bottom line here.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) So you're open to changing the law.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Of course, if you need to protect, but show us how you can't do what you need to do today. They're never done that. There's nothing in the FISA law that we passed that suggests the president has this power. That's number one. Number two, the president never came to us and said we're having difficulties doing this. Number three, there have been over 19,000 -- I believe it is -- 19,000 warrants issued. I think only five have been denied in the entire course of time. The court has been set up so that it's possible on a matter of minutes to say we need you sitting -- we need you available. We have a situation developing. There's all the method in the world to protect the constitution of the United States and the privacy of Americans.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) So if you think this is a clear violation of the law why not move to cut off funding for the program?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: That's premature. I think the first thing to do is say how do we, you know, make sure we're protecting the security of the country? If they have a problem with this, then come to Congress. You know, this is really typical of the way they've been managing the city (sic). The culture of sort of arrogance and corruption has been allowed to take over Washington, DC, evidenced also by the Abramoff scandal, by what you see, I mean, you know, Billy Tauzin helps put together a prescription drug bill, boom, he's gone and gets a million dollar contract with these people. We've got billions of dollars missing in Iraq, billions of dollars missing in Iraq. They're not even looking for them or trying to hold them accountable.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) You know, I want to get to, I want to get to Abramoff in a minute. Let me ask you a little bit more on this, on this. You say it's premature to cut off funding for the program. Al Gore says it may be an impeachable offense and he's called for a special counsel to investigate the entire matter. Do you agree with that?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: I agree that we ought to have a special council investigate. I agree that we ought to have an independent commission because this Congress has proven itself unwilling to do what's necessary to perform its responsibilities. And the greatest example of that is the intelligence committee effort in the United states Senate, where for months and months, they have been stonewalling the effort to look at the intelligence that led up to the war. You know, I think we have to go further on the anti-corruption efforts. I think you ought to have an inspector general, if you will, with a set of standards who is overseeing the relationship between Congress and the money that is in American politics.
Congress War on Terrorism 9/11 ABC
Noel Sheppard's picture