Fox still echoing administration's “terrorist surveillance program” label; regional newspapers follow suit

Fox News reporters and anchors have increased their use of the Bush administration's term for its warrantless domestic spying program, which it calls a “terrorist [or terror] surveillance program,” in their reporting and commentary. Some regional newspapers appear to be following Fox's lead.

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, not long after the Bush administration adopted new rhetoric to describe its warrantless domestic surveillance program, Fox News reporters and anchors began using the White House's terminology -- referring to it as a “terrorist surveillance program” or “terror surveillance program.” Beginning on January 25 -- during a week that saw the administration go on the offensive to promote its practice of spying on U.S. residents without obtaining warrants -- Fox News began slipping the term, without qualification, into its news reports and commentary. Since then, Fox News reporters and anchors have continued to use the term “terrorist [or terror] surveillance program” in their reporting. Further, some regional newspapers appear to be following Fox News' lead, also adopting, without qualification, the White House's preferred nomenclature to describe the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic spying program.

Fox Broadcasting Co. followed its cable news partner in picking up the terminology on Fox News Sunday, where host Chris Wallace claimed that a Washington Post article reported: "... the government's top-secret terror surveillance program has yielded few suspects from the thousands of Americans who have been monitored in overseas calls." But, while Wallace suggested that “terror surveillance program” was the Post's wording, the article explicitly stated that “terrorist surveillance program” was an administration phrase, noting: "[President] Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as 'terrorist surveillance,' and summed it up by declaring that 'if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.' "

Later, while introducing guest Gen. Michael V. Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence, Wallace again used the term “terror surveillance program” to describe the NSA program.

As Media Matters has noted, the term “terrorist surveillance program” appears to have originated with the right-wing news website on December 22, 2005; operators of right-wing weblogs began to pick up the term on January 20, according to a timeline by the weblog Think Progress. On January 22, the White House press office released a backgrounder on the NSA program, in which the term appeared 10 times in reference to domestic eavesdropping.

In a January 23 speech, Bush said of the NSA's activities, “It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program.” He and other administration officials have since used the term in numerous speeches and interviews. While most news outlets that have referred to this wording have placed it in quotes or disclosed it as a term the Bush administration has promoted (as the Post did in its February 5 article), Media Matters noted that Fox News began to use it on January 25, without qualification, in news reports and commentary.

From January 30 to February 6, Fox News increased its usage of the term “terrorist surveillance program” or “terror surveillance program” in reference to the NSA's warrantless domestic spying. During that period, Media Matters found that Fox News and Fox Broadcasting Co. used the term or a variation at least 26 times on 15 different programs throughout its coverage of the NSA's controversial program.




Fox News Live, Studio B With Shepard Smith


Big Story with John Gibson


Fox & Friends First, Fox & Friends


Fox News Live Weekend, The Line-Up, The Journal Editorial Report


Fox News Live, Fox News Sunday


Fox & Friends, Fox News Live, Your World with Neil Cavuto, Big Story with John Gibson, Hannity & Colmes

During the same period (January 30-February 6), while Fox News increased its usage of the term “terrorist surveillance program,” some regional newspapers also adopted Bush's terminology in their commentary and reporting of the NSA spy program: The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), The Honolulu Advertiser, San Antonio Express-News, The Greenville News (South Carolina), and The Washington Times (as Media Matters previously noted here). With the exception of the San Antonio Express-News, all of the papers used the term in editorials defending or praising Bush's January 31 State of the Union address. The San Antonio Express-News used the phrase in a news article. Four of the five newspapers -- The Arizona Republic, San Antonio Express-News, The Greenville News and The Washington Times -- endorsed Bush in the presidential election of 2004.

From the February 5 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: I'm Chris Wallace. New revelations about that controversial NSA surveillance program, next on Fox News Sunday.

Terrorist surveillance: Can attacks be prevented while civil liberties are protected? We'll find out in a rare interview with the architect of the NSA spy program, General Michael Hayden, now the deputy director of national intelligence.


WALLACE: And good morning again from Fox News in Washington. Here's a quick check of the latest headlines. The Washington Post reports today the government's top-secret terror surveillance program has yielded few suspects from the thousands of Americans who have been monitored in overseas calls.

Only about 10 citizens or residents a year have raised enough suspicion to prompt more surveillance. We'll talk about that with General Hayden in a moment.


WALLACE: Well, tomorrow, here on Capitol Hill, hearings begin on that controversial terror surveillance program. Our first guest, General Michael Hayden, started the program as head of the National Security Agency. Now he's the principal deputy director of national intelligence. General Hayden joins us live from Detroit.