A combative President Bush spoke on the Patriot Act and the secret NSA eavesdropping program:
You're damn right I ordered the Code Red.
Ooops, that can't be right. Here we go:
As president, I took an oath to defend the Constitution and I have no greater responsibility than to protect our people, our freedom and our way of life.
On Sept. 11, 2001, our freedom and way of life came under attack by brutal enemies who killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. We’re fighting these enemies across the world. Yet in this first war of the 21st century, one of the most critical battlefronts is the home front. And since Sept. 11, we’ve been on the offensive against the terrorists plotting within our borders.
The House of Representatives passed re-authorization of the Patriot Act, yet a minority of senators filibustered to block the renewal of the Patriot Act when it came up for a vote yesterday. That decision is irresponsible and it endangers the lives of our citizens.
The senators who are filibustering must stop their delaying tactics and the Senate must vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
In the war on terror we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment. To fight the war on terror, I’m using authority vested in me by Congress, including the joint authorization for use of military force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after Sept. 11. 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.
News flash - we are still a representative democracy, despite the evident unwillingness of our opposition party to bestir itself. If this secret program was so outrageous, the Senate and House Democrats who had been briefed on it should have spoken up. Instead, we get profiles in courage as, per the Times, Reid, Rockefeller, and others are unavailable for comment.
And here is straight talk from Nancy Pelosi:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had been told on several occasions that Bush had authorized unspecified activities by the National Security Agency, the nation's largest spy agency. She said she had expressed strong concerns at the time, and that Bush's statement Saturday "raises serious questions as to what the activities were and whether the activities were lawful."
Oh, she had expressed strong concerns at the time! That's why she was asking for Congressional hearings, and sending cryptic letters to the White House and the Justice Department, letters she will no doubt produce in due course. (No, I can't think of a reason in the world she has not produced them already - maybe her staff has been busy with their holiday shopping).
[Just to be clear - the program was suspended and revamped in 2004 after objections from Sen. Rockefeller. How did he know so much and she so little?]
What rubbish. Well, the prize for "Most Annoyingly Hypocritical" still goes to Sen. Feingold, who is Mr. Civil Liberties when it comes to the right of terrorists to make overseas phone calls without government interference, but will slap a lawsuit on anyone who tries to run an ad against him without first climbing a mountain of regulations. Yeah, he has identified the enemy.
Hmm, possible compromise - maybe Bush could announce that the NSA is trying to track illegal fund raising activity intended to run anonymous attack ads against incumbents. Sign Russ up!
MORE: I broadly agree with this:
Retired Adm. Bobby Inman, who led the NSA from 1977 to 1981, said Bush's authorization of the eavesdropping would have been justified in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks "because at that point you couldn't get a court warrant unless you could show probable cause."
"Once the Patriot Act was in place, I am puzzled what was the need to continue outside the court," Inman added. But he said, "If the fact is valid that Congress was notified, there will be no consequences."
I would like to see more reporting as to why the existing procedures were not adequate, and why Bush is still operating on expedited procedures more than three years into this.
UPDATE: What was a Congressional Dem to do? Well, Tom Daschle was Senate *Majority* Leader for part of this program, and could easily have insisted on hearing; even in the minority, truly outraged Senate Dems could stall other legislation until their concerns on this program were addressed. (But wait - Rockefeller's *were* addressed. Some secret tyranny Bush is running...).
From which I conclude that Senate Dems were not outraged, and that we are being treated to a lot of useless, plotically motivated posturing when there is a real problem to be solved, to wit - what is it about the current procedures that are so cumbersome that we need a permanent emergency work-around?