During today’s White House press briefing, spokeswoman Dana Perino announced that the Bush administration will be holding a “background briefing” on wiretapping this afternoon. Resisting their calls to have the briefing on the record, Perino claimed that it was for reporters to “understand the complexities of the issue and where we stand.”
The briefing, however, seems intended to brainwash reporters with White House talking points, rather than clear up any so-called “confusion.” Reporters quickly said that they are “quite clear” on the White House’s positions and the facts. Perino then snidely replied, “I don’t think so.” From today’s exchange:
QUESTION: I mean, the president’s made quite clear his position on retroactive liability and so on and so forth. I mean, what specifically is the point of confusion that you might be trying to address?
PERINO: I could go back to yesterday’s transcript. … There’s confusion as to what — what are the implications and the consequences of not having the Protect America Act. [...]
QUESTION: What’s the big mystery here? Don’t we know what this is about?
PERINO: From where I stand and the questions that I get, no. I don’t think so.
Perino pointed to the transcript of yesterday’s briefing as evidence of the reporters’ ignorance. The only one who appeared confused by the facts, however, was Perino.
Yesterday, Perino repeatedly claimed that because Congress refused to pass the administration’s version of the Protect America Act, U.S. intelligence collection was impaired. One reporter pointed out, “You’re still collecting intelligence.” Another charged that the government’s wiretap orders will last until at least August. Someone else stated that new targets can be pursued “as long as you come back within three days and get a warrant under FISA.”
Perino eventually gave up and responded with equivocations such as, “I’m not a lawyer” and “It’s a little bit more complex than that.” Seems like she’s the one who needs the “background briefing.”
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