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DID ALITO DEFEND WARRANTLESS DOMESTIC SPYING?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 23, 2005 02:38 PM

The Associated Press is reporting that “Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps when he worked for the Reagan Justice Department.”

Here’s how some MSM outlets are headlining the story:
“Documents Show Alito Supported Domestic Spying”
“Alito Defended Wiretap Protections in ’85 Memo”
“Supreme Court nominee defends govt. right to order domestic wiretaps”
“U.S. Supreme Court nominee Alito backed domestic wiretaps, opposed Roe: memo”
“Alito defended government wiretap rights”

Most people reading such headlines will conclude that Alito wants to give the feds the unfettered right to eavesdrop without a warrant on purely domestic phone calls–a position more extreme than that being advanced by President Bush, who has defended warrantless eavesdropping of calls between the U.S. and suspected al Qaeda operatives abroad.

But contrary to the spin, Alito has never defended warrantless domestic spying. He did say that Nixon Administration officials who ordered illegal wiretaps should be given immunity from civil lawsuits since the illegality of the wiretaps was not established at the time they were ordered. One can agree or disagree, but to characterize Alito’s position as supporting “the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps” is a reckless distortion.

The Alito memo, which most MSM outlets don’t bother to link to, can be downloaded from the National Archives web site here.

(The issue Alito was writing about grew out of an earlier case, United States v. United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 [1972]. John Hinderaker discusses that case and its implications for the current NSA controversy here.)

Update: Hinderaker skewers the AP’s report here. Ed Whelan does so here. Sen. Conryn’s office does so here.

Media Matters perpetuates AP’s distortion, falsely claiming that the memo suggests “Alito supports warrantless wiretaps.”

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Previous:

There they go again
What liberal media? Pt. 9,999
Jimmy Massey’s lies: The AP finally wakes up
Reporting Bush’s speech… before he delivers it
AP: John McCain is “front-runner” for GOP nomination

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