Wash. Times editorial page joins White House and Fox News in adopting "terrorist surveillance program" term

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

A Washington Times editorial on President Bush's State of the Union address adopted the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program, dubbing it the "terrorist surveillance program."

Following Fox News' lead, a February 2 Washington Times editorial on President Bush's State of the Union address adopted the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program, dubbing it the "terrorist surveillance program." Bush first used the term publicly in a January 23 speech at Kansas State University in which he defended his authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications of U.S. residents without court warrants.

As Media Matters for America has noted, the term "terrorist surveillance program" appears to have originated with the right-wing news website NewsMax.com on December 22; 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 the domestic eavesdropping.

In his 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 noting the moniker have placed it in quotes or disclosed it is a term the Bush administration has promoted, Fox News began to use it on January 25, without qualification, in its news reports and commentary. In a February 2 editorial headlined "The president's address," The Washington Times editorial page furthered this trend:

Mr. Bush was at his best in making the case for renewal of the Patriot Act and in rebutting the critics of his terrorist surveillance program to intercept the communications of suspected al Qaeda operatives to and from the United States: "If there are people inside our country who are talking about al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."

While the Times has written six other editorials on the domestic eavesdropping since the public disclosure of the NSA program on December 16, this represents the first in which the term "terrorist surveillance program" has appeared. Previously, the editorial page has referred to it as the "NSA surveillance program," the "wiretap program," "President Bush's warrantless domestic wiretaps," and "President Bush's National Security Agency wiretaps."

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