Early Show Still Up In Arms Over "Domestic Spying"

January 25th, 2006 8:20 AM
I know how hard it is to write a headline that's accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three -- accurate, short and grabbing. I don't think 'domestic spying' makes it.

- General Michael Hayden, former NSA director, speaking to the National Press Club on January 23

On CBS, The Early Show opened this morning with a discussion of the NSA's electronic surveillance program on Al-Qaeda suspects that it continues to call "domestic spying." It was the first item teased at the open. Rene Syler:

Using the National Security Agency as a backdrop, President Bush today will once again defend his domestic spying program as vital to the war on terror.

Less than a minute later, as they introduced the various stories they'd be covering, it was mentioned again. Julie Chen:

As we noted, President Bush has been defending his covert program to spy on Americans, and we'll have the latest on that in just a moment.

Again, it was less than a minute later when they got into the news, and here we go again. Harry Smith:

Let's get right to our top story. Domestic spying, the President's surveillance program has ignited a national debate on civil liberties vs. national security.

They then went to a report from Bill Plante, who told us that

The White House issued another of its rebuttals titled Setting the Record Straight. This one challenges those who call the program domestic spying.

That challenge obviously hasn't work yet. In fact, CBS is actually showing a fair degree of contempt for the White House by acknowledging that and continuing to call it "domestic spying."

The attorney general repeated the administration argument that the surveillance is authorized by the congressional War Powers act of 2001.

Plante acknowledges that the White House is arguing that this program is legal, constitutional, and authorized by congress. And then finished with this:

The President's case comes down to this. The assertion that the spying helps prevent terrorist attacks.

Well, no, Bill, the President's case, as you just noted, is that the program is legal.

Finally, we get to the story. And here's Rene Syler again:

Does the government have the right to monitor your phone calls or e-mails without a warrant? President Bush believes the answer is yes, if it means stopping terrorist attacks against the U.S. The domestic spying program has inspired a great debate.

This is the fourth mention of the program. In one of them, briefly, has it been mentioned that the wiretaps are on "international calls to and from the US." Here again, it's ignored. "Domestic spying" is an obviously inaccurate term that CBS continues to insist on using. (To their credit, they did have Bay Buchanan on this morning, and she called them on it - "I want to go back to how you introduced this segment. What you said is inaccurate. You suggested it was domestic spying. It is not.")

If CBS had been paying attention at the National Press Club on Monday when General Hayden spoke, they might have been able to figure it out. As I noted at the top, he made it clear that "domestic spying" did not work as an accurate headline for what's going on. He also made another great point in that speech that even CBS should have been able to understand.

I've taken literally hundreds of domestic flights. I have never boarded a domestic flight in the United States of America and landed in Waziristan.

Lyflines - Lyford's other blog…