Saturday, December 17, 2005

The President's Speech On the Patriot Act and the NSA

President Bush called Senate Democrats "irresponsible" for filibustering the Patriot Act in his speech earlier today. He also defended the NSA "spying" program that has raised controversy since the New York Times published yesterday's story about it.

You can watch the president's speech at CNN. Here is what he had to say about the "spying" done by the NSA:

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

Bush's arguments here are overwhelmingly effective. One of his key points revolves around the legal nature of the NSA's intercept program, in contrast with the illegal act of leaking the information to the NY Times, enabling the paper to reveal the program to the terrorists.

It is a very good move for Bush to go on the offensive today, defend his programs, and chastise senators who are weak on national security. The Patriot Act, the NSA program, and the many other programs and policies used by this administration to fight terrorism have kept the nation safe for the past four years. And as the president noted, while the provisions of the Patriot Act will expire in two weeks, the terrorist threat will not. It only makes sense to allow our intelligence agencies to correctly deal with the ongoing threat, but the left simply does not realize this.

Captain's Quarters live-blogged the speech and some of CNN's commentary afterwards, including an interview of Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. This definitely caught my eye:
9:14 - Russ Feingold says that we have to have laws allowing this operation -- but that's not true. The NSA has ALWAYS had the authority to intercept international communications; it's part of the NSA charter to do so. Feingold also argues that whatever is not explicitly legal is somehow prohibited under American law, but the opposite is true. In order for something to be illegal, it has to be explicitly made so by law. Anything unaddressed remains legal until the Legislature makes it illegal. Feingold made the opposite argument several times -- and that speaks much more towards an American tyranny than anything Bush said or did.

I wonder how the left plans on responding to the President now. The President exposed the apathy for national security of Senate Democrats who fillibustered the Patriot Act, and offered a very effective defense of the NSA program. He even noted what an irresponsible and illegal move it was for the NY Times to run it's story. The Dems and the MSM can't be happy about this.