Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush Addresses Wiretapping Issue

LESS THAN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS after the New York Times published this story, U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH addressed the nation in a radio message from the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The following extended excerpt shows Pres. Bush will not be taking the road of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ("deny and deny until you die") in handling the white-hot wiretapping issue. Instead President Bush forthrightly lays out the facts of the matter ("I did it because it was my duty") and takes a clear and unequivocal stand --
To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as Commander-in-Chief.

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.

Thank you.

VIA ORIN KERR OF VOLOKH CONSPIRACY: There is a very interesting case, one that may have great relevance to the ongoing controversay, whose decision's FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY is in just two days: United States of America v. Usama bin Laden (U.S. District Court, S.D., New York, December 19, 2000) . The opening backgrounder from the decision of Justice Sand, should encourage Philippine Commentary readers of a legal bent of mind to read the whole thing for possible relevance and pertinence to the present case:
The Defendants are charged with numerous offenses arising out of their alleged participation in an international terrorist organization led by Defendant Usama Bin Laden and that organization's alleged involvement in the August 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Presently before the Court are Defendant El-Hage's motions which seek the following: suppression of evidence seized from the search of his residence in Nairobi, Kenya in August 1997 and suppression of evidence obtained from electronic surveillance, conducted from August 1996 to August 1997, of four telephone lines in Nairobi, Kenya.
I'm glad that this whole controversy will probably be taking a somewhat different track than that into which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pushed GLORIAGATE with her strange "I am sorry" speech last June 28, a full three weeks after her own Press Sec. Ignacio Bunye ignited the Gloriagate controversy with a maladroit presentation of original and faked illegally wiretapped Garci conversations. In that speech Pres. GMA said "I am sorry. I also regret taking so long to speak before you on this matter... I want to close this chapter and move on with the business of governing." It is fairly obvious six months on, that she did not succeed in closing this awful chapter of the wiretapping controversy that has consumed and threatens to throw into GRIDLOCK, a society already wracked by political strife.

But I suppose it is a good sign that President Bush has acted with alacrity and admirable dispatch to tell the American People what he did and why he did it. There will now be a long, intense period of debate. But the American people already know where Bush was, is and will be. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo remains an inscrutable mystery by comparison, inviting nothing thereby, but endless suspicion and distrust. Perhaps President Bush has shown, he does not intend to make that mistake because it is not in his nature to hide his true beliefs and actions, a thing that seems to be instinctive with the Philippine President. More's the pity for the Archipelago.


(1030 December 18) A recent comment by AMERICAN PAINTER in this comment thread, inspires the following ideas: NATIONAL SECURITY is a collective right of the Public and the State -- the Republic's Right to Life, free from internal and external threats to their peaceful existence as a community of human beings. But it is HUSBAND to the Mother of democratic rights and freedoms in the Bill of Rights -- the RIGHT TO PRIVACY. In both countries, their Union is sealed by the Constitutions of both the United States and the Philippines, and by laws like the US's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and RP's Anti-Wiretapping Law (RA4200). Once in awhile, I suppose, there can be a LOVERS QUARREL. But it ought not be serious...especially when they keep in mind the children...A related post is The Right to Privacy and the Public's Right to Know.


Rizalist said...

A Warm Welcome Folks! This is a fast moving story. But it has perhaps only begun, and will become a major component of Bush's second term in office.

Edwin Lacierda said...

That's a whale of a difference between these two presidents. Bush is brave enought to admit ordering the wiretapping and is willing to face up to the consequences of an action which others think is an impeachable offense while GMA was exceeding in remorse but unrepentant of her deeds. The first will result to closure, one way or the other, the second, to perdition, either this country or GMA's soul.

I'll take Bush for president anytime!

Rizalist said...

I've been reading the FISA and related laws in the US -- AMAZING -- they contain the same MATHEMATICAL POETRY as Tanada's Anti-Wiretapping Law when it comes to privacy rights and the right of the public to know (which I have decided is actually the basis for STATE to know!).

We should not be surprised. All these laws are written based on the same GRAND PRINCIPLES.

AmericanPainter said...

President Bush’s rapid and forthright response was excellent strategy and certainly helps him in this writers eyes.

His argument is effective, who can argue with his reasons? Who can argue with the controls he had on the measures taken? Who can argue with it’s effectiveness? There have been no attacks on the U.S. since September 11, 2001.

It was an eye opening statement!

I’ve changed my mind, I think it’s unfortunate that the New York Times saw fit to publish a story which held such vital secret information to the aid of our enemies. It brings to mind U.S. Government posters during WWII, showing U.S. Sailors in the water, with the saying, “LOOSE LIPS, SINK SHIPS!”

Even an idiot could see the damage to national security such a story would do and the editors of the Times are not idiots. We’re not talking wire taps of innocent Americans here, we’re talking internationals who want to destroy America.

What a difference it would have made if PGMA, instead of saying, “I’m sorry,” could have given forthright and reasonable reasons for her conversation with a COMEL official. She simply said, “I’m sorry,” and that’s not good enough! Filipino’s deserve better!

Rizalist said...

I think we shall this lesson -- that it is the first and foremost duty of the Commander in Chief to do whatever is necessary to preserve and protect the National Security, and that much can be morally and legally justified on that basis. Conversely, any President and Commander in Chief who acts to the CONTRARY, and commits acts that are detrimental to the National Security, such a leader is NOT DESERVED by the people. Such a thing can then lead to the withdrawal of their consent to be governed, just as much as President Bush's actions will likely continue to win the consent of the American people for his forthright leadership.

National Security has to do with the Public Right of the Nation to Live, which is Husband to the Mother of all private rights and freedoms -- the Right to Privacy.