Times Still Twisting Anti-Terror Tactic Into "Domestic Surveillance"

A program monitoring overseas calls from terror suspects in the U.S. becomes a "domestic surveillance program."

As it did yesterday, Friday's Times uses the Bush administration's decision to submit its terror surveillance program to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make more misleading descriptions of the program, twisting the program from one that monitors calls from terror suspects in the U.S. overseas into a "domestic surveillance program."

Legal correspondent Adam Liptak's front-page "news analysis," "The White House as a Moving Legal Target," opens with just such a statement:

"In a four-paragraph letter on Wednesday announcing that the Bush administration had reversed its position and would submit its domestic surveillance program to judicial supervision, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales used one phrase three times. A secret court, he said, had fashioned a way to allow the program to be monitored by the judiciary without compromising the need for "speed and agility."

"That phrase also captures, some critics say, the administration's moving-target litigation strategy, one that often seeks to change the terms of the debate just as a claim of executive authority is about to be tested in the courts or in Congress.

"On Wednesday, the administration announced that an unnamed judge on the secret court, in a nonadversarial proceeding that apparently cannot be appealed, had issued orders that apparently both granted surveillance requests and set out some ground rules for how such requests would be handled.

"The details remained sketchy yesterday, but critics of the administration said they suspected that one goal of the new arrangements was to derail lawsuits challenging the program in conventional federal courts."

The phrase "domestic surveillance program" implies the targeting of phone calls from some American citizens to other American citizens when in fact the National Security Agency surveillance program focuses on international calls of people in the U.S. who are suspected of terrorist ties - and who aren't necessarily citizens at all.

Intelligence reporters David Johnston and Scott Shane make the same mistake in Friday's report from Capitol Hill, "Senators Demand Details on New Eavesdropping Rules."

"Lawmakers demanded more information on new rules for governing a domestic surveillance program on Thursday, a day after the Bush administration announced that it had placed the National Security Agency eavesdropping under court supervision."