Associated Press staff writer Katherine Shrader referred to the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program as a "terrorist monitoring" program, once again echoing the White House's preferred terminology -- "terrorist surveillance program" -- to describe the controversial operation.
In a March 8 article on the recent agreement between the White House and Republican senators concerning the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, Associated Press staff writer Katherine Shrader referred to the operation as "terrorist monitoring." In doing so, she echoed the White House's preferred description of the controversial program -- "terrorist surveillance" -- terminology that Shrader has used in two previous articles. Moreover, Shrader waited until the end of the article to disclose why the program is controversial: It allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on U.S. residents without warrants, in apparent violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
It was not until the penultimate paragraph that Shrader first referred to the NSA surveillance program as "warrantless." This information was not specifically noted anywhere else in the article, despite its clear relevance to the widespread criticism of the program. She instead misleadingly referred to the NSA program as "terrorist monitoring" and wrote that it allows "the government to monitor suspected terrorists." In fact, as Media Matters for America noted in response to Shrader's prior use of the White House's preferred terminology in her articles, there is ample evidence that the NSA program goes far beyond merely monitoring terrorists or suspected terrorists. Reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post have described the program as monitoring the communications of thousands of people with no relationship to terrorist organizations.
Further, forgoing mention that the NSA surveillance is conducted without warrants until the end of the article obscured the substance of lawmakers' objections to the program Shrader had noted earlier in her story. Since the program became public in December 2005, Democratic lawmakers -- along with numerous Republicans -- have argued that it violates FISA, the law that requires a warrant be obtained to conduct domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes. Under the proposed legislation, agreed to by the White House and Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the administration would be allowed to conduct warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days. If it seeks to conduct this surveillance for a longer period, it would be required to either request a FISA warrant or explain to a newly formed, seven-member Senate subcommittee why it is necessary to continue eavesdropping without one.
At no point in the article did Shrader explicitly state that critics of the program argue it violates the law. Shrader noted the Democratic criticism of the committee's rejection of a proposal to fully investigate the NSA surveillance operations, but she again failed to provide the larger context for the opposition to the program or even note that it involves domestic surveillance without warrants:
Meanwhile, Democrats on the Intelligence Committee expressed outrage after a meeting Tuesday that senators voted -- along party lines -- to reject an investigation of the surveillance proposed by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's top Democrat.
"The committee -- to put it bluntly -- basically is in the control of the White House," a visibly angry Rockefeller said.
Rockefeller said he spent all of Friday at the NSA, seeking answers to more than 400 questions. He said it would take several visits to have a full understanding of the program, which allowed the administration to eavesdrop on international calls and e-mails of U.S. residents when terrorism is suspected.
By contrast, a March 8 Los Angeles Times article on the agreement laid out the substance of the larger controversy. It noted that the program involves domestic surveillance "without first obtaining a court order" and explained that members of both parties have "questioned its legality and asked whether it was necessary to bypass" FISA:
The House Intelligence Committee took a similar step last week, saying it would designate one of its existing subcommittees to examine and hold regular hearings on the operation, which involves intercepting the communications of Americans or others in the United States without first obtaining a court order.
The White House has defended the operation, saying it has been a crucial tool in fighting terrorism and that it only allows eavesdropping on individuals who are in contact with people overseas suspected of having ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
But critics have argued that Bush had no authority to start the program, and that it violates 1970s statutes that placed strict limits on domestic spying operations in response to abuses during the Nixon administration.
Bush's program has prompted an outcry even among some Republicans, who have questioned its legality and asked whether it was necessary to bypass a system that allows domestic eavesdropping as long as the government obtains the permission of a special foreign-intelligence court.