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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Japan Today - News - Bush says he authorized use of wiretaps because it saves lives - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Bush says he authorized use of wiretaps because it saves lives - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBush says he authorized use of wiretaps because it saves lives

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Sunday, December 18, 2005 at 06:56 JST
WASHINGTON — U.S. President George W Bush said Saturday that he had authorized the use of wiretaps by the National Security Agency, calling the practice "crucial to our national security" in the U.S. "war on terror" and "critical to saving American lives."

"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-Qaida and related terrorist organizations," Bush said in a televised address.

At the same time, Bush castigated senators for blocking the renewal of the USA Patriot Act, a sweeping law designed to fight terrorist activities, calling the senators' move an "irresponsible" tactic that "endangers the lives of our citizens."

In the speech, an unusual live broadcast of his weekly radio address, Bush confirmed media reports that he had authorized the NSA, the government's top-secret electronic and satellite spy agency, to intercept communications by people living in the United States who are suspected of terrorist activities.

"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," he said.

"This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security," Bush said of the controversial program, launched in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks.

The media reports suggested that the authorization was a significant shift in the activities of the NSA, which is normally tasked with spying on international communications.

The New York Times said the president authorized the NSA in 2002 to monitor the international telephone calls and email messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without getting the warrants previously required for internal spying.

The reports provoked objections from several senior lawmakers, including those in Bush's Republican Party.

"What he's doing, I believe, is illegal," Democratic Senator Russ Feingold said Saturday on CNN television.

"Eavesdropping on conversations of U.S. citizens and others in the United States without a court order and without complying with the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is both illegal and unconstitutional," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office, said.

However, Bush insisted that his authorizations of the NSA's domestic surveillance were legal, noting that he had personally reauthorized the program more than 30 times since Sept 11 after consulting with top government legal officials, including the attorney general.

"This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives," he said.

The president blasted the media for "improperly" revealing the program, based on what he suggested were illegal leaks of classified information.

"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."

Bush, meanwhile, strongly criticized the senators who blocked the Patriot Act's renewal Friday on the grounds that it gives authorities too much power to intrude into U.S. citizens' private lives.

Without renewal, the act will expire in two weeks, Bush noted, saying the law has "protected American liberty and saved American lives."

"The terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks. The terrorists want to attack America again and inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th," Bush said. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment." (Wire reports)

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