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Echoing others on Fox, Shepard Smith adopted Bush "terror surveillance program" terminology

Media Matters | April 11 2006

Summary: Fox News' Shepard Smith adopted the White House's preferred terminology -- "terror surveillance program" -- to refer to the warrantless domestic wiretapping program authorized by President Bush.

During a newsbreak on the April 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Shepard Smith, host of The Fox Report and Studio B with Shepard Smith, adopted the White House's preferred terminology -- "terror surveillance program" -- to refer to the warrantless domestic wiretapping program authorized by President Bush in November 2001 and conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Smith, who was reporting on Bush's recent stop in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he spoke and took questions at a community college, said that an audience member had "demand[ed] the president apologize for the NSA's terror surveillance program." The audience member to whom Smith was referring told Bush that he was "ashamed" and "frightened" of the "leadership in Washington, including the presidency," and that Bush should be "ashamed" of himself. The audience member did not refer to the wiretapping program as a "terror surveillance program," although Bush did in his response. The Fox News segment was accompanied by an onscreen graphic that read "President Bush defends terror surveillance program."

As Media Matters for America previously noted (here and here), Fox News began using the term "terrorist surveillance program" shortly after the Bush administration adopted the term to describe the warrantless domestic wiretapping program. Media Matters also noted that Fox News had earlier followed the White House's lead in replacing the terms "suicide bomber" and "suicide bombing" with "homicide bomber" and "homicide bombing" to describe attackers who kill themselves and others with explosives.

From the April 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume (6pm E.T. hour):

SMITH: President Bush, holding another question-and-answer session today regarding the war on terror, and a man in the North Carolina audience demanding the president apologize for the NSA's terror surveillance program. The president answering that he would, quote, "absolutely not apologize," for ordering the wiretapping. The president explained that the program needed to -- is needed to protect America against Al Qaeda terrorists.

From Bush's April 6 event in Charlotte, North Carolina:

QUESTION: You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you'd like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are --

BUSH: I'm not your favorite guy. Go ahead. Go on, what's your question?

QUESTION: OK. I don't have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I -- in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and --


BUSH: No, wait a sec -- let him speak.

QUESTION: And I would hope -- I feel like, despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I'm saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.

BUSH: It is, yes.

QUESTION: And I know that this doesn't come welcome to most of the people in this room, but I do appreciate that.

BUSH: Appreciate --

QUESTION: I don't have a question, but I just wanted to make that comment to you.

BUSH: I appreciate it, thank you. Let me --

QUESTION: Can I ask a question?

BUSH: I'm going to start off with what you first said, if you don't mind, you said that I tap your phones -- I think that's what you said. You tapped your phone -- I tapped your phones. Yes. No. That's right. Yes. No. Let me finish.

I'd like to describe that decision I made about protecting this country. You can come to whatever conclusion you want. The conclusion is, I'm not going to apologize for what I did on the terrorist surveillance program, and I'll tell you why. We were accused in Washington, D.C., of not connecting the dots, that we didn't do everything we could to protect you or others from the attack. And so I called in the people responsible for helping to protect the American people and the homeland. I said: Is there anything more we could do?

And there -- out of this national -- NSA came the recommendation that it would make sense for us to listen to a call outside the country, inside the country from Al Qaeda or suspected Al Qaeda in order to have real-time information from which to possibly prevent an attack. I thought that made sense, so long as it was constitutional. Now, you may not agree with the constitutional assessment given to me by lawyers -- and we've got plenty of them in Washington -- but they made this assessment that it was constitutional for me to make that decision.

I, then, sir, took that decision to members of the United States Congress from both political parties and briefed them on the decision that was made in order to protect the American people. And so members of both parties, both chambers, were fully aware of a program intended to know whether or not Al Qaeda was calling in or calling out of the country. It seems like -- to make sense, if we're at war, we ought to be using tools necessary within the Constitution, on a very limited basis, a program that's reviewed constantly to protect us.

Now, you and I have a different -- of agreement on what is needed to be protected. But you said: Would I apologize for that? The answer -- answer is: absolutely not.


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