December 19, 2005 10:15 AM PST

President defends secret wiretapping

President Bush on Monday forcefully defended his decision to authorize electronic spying on Americans without court authorization, saying the United States was at war and such eavesdropping remains designed to counter terrorist attacks.

At a press conference in Washington, Bush also called on senators to "stop their delaying tactics" and approve the Patriot Act before portions expire on Dec. 31. Civil-liberties concerns delayed a vote on a four-year extension last week.

"Congress has a responsibility to give our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools they need," Bush told reporters during a press conference. "We cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment."

Disclosure of the surveillance program has roiled Washington since the New York Times reported it on Friday. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, already has pledged to convene hearings on how the program captured Americans' telephone calls, e-mail and Web browsing.

Bush and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have said that people targeted are those suspected to have ties with al-Qaida or be working to support terrorists. "I can't get into the specific numbers because that information remains classified," Gonzalez said during a separate press briefing Monday morning.

For his part, the president responded to opposition Monday by saying the secret program would continue and warning Congress not to hold public hearings. "An open debate about law would say to the enemy, 'This is what we're going to do,'" Bush said. "Any public hearings on programs will say to the enemy, 'This is what they do--adjust.'"

At their own news conference following Bush's remarks, Senate Democrats called the surveillance program illegal. It involves using the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international phone calls and Internet activities of people within the United States. Such eavesdropping was done without working with a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for this purpose.

"Where does he (Bush) find in the Constitution to tap the wires and phones of American citizens without any court oversight?" asked Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

Levin pointed out that, in an emergency, FISA permits police to conduct warrantless surveillance for 72 hours and seek retroactive approval from the secret court.

Sen. Russ Feingold, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Bush's logic meant that Congress did not need to exist. "We don't have a role if the president can just make up these laws," Feingold said. "The president does not have a leg to stand on legally."

10 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
King George II
Our country would be much safer if the President could ignore laws as they become inconvenient to him.

Oh, wait.
Posted by The Sake of Sanity (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
No Liberal Bias
At least now no one can blame the liberal media for taking a swing at Bush seeing as how important conservative senators are calling for hearings as well.
Posted by bobthepirate (5 comments )
Link Flag
King William
Just like Bill Clinton!
Posted by ledzep75 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Right, don't forget. . .
Don't forget. . . the Raw FBI Files on Clinton's coffee table, or the
top secret files swiped by Sandy Burglar, or the missile technology
sent to China for campaign contributions.

IF Bush is breaking the law, he is doing it to try and save our
collective fannies, not trying to cover-up his after hours
calisthenics with the White House interns.
Posted by sbwinn (216 comments )
Link Flag
Selective memory - Echelon and Carnivore
These hypocrite DemocRat senators didn't have much to say about Echelon and Carnivore during the Clinton era.

And they act "shocked" even though they've been briefed on it before.

And what makes Sen. Levin think that the NSA is listening in on "American citizens"? It's more likely non-citizens (and probably illegally here) plotting against us from within our borders.

Shall we go back to putting our heads in the sand and pretending there are no terrorist among us?

DemocRats and the NY Times - they're with the terrorists.
Posted by fafafooey (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Democrats, republicans, all the same
They each have their own nasty agenda. Yeah, Guess what, Carnivore and Echelon are pretty much defunct. They run on age-old technology that can't keep up. While trying to rebuild carnivore, the governement ceased doing so.

But I'd say that that damned Patriot Act hurts us more than either of the above mentioned programs ever have.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah right
If you don't support Bush in his quest to dismantle to constitution and bill of rights, then you are with the terrorists. I guess you could belive that if you are a moron like Bush.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Oh well,
Oh well,I believe the following oath applies to thef the office of the President of the United States "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Alas, note the final seven words, which means he is neither above, nor exempt from any laws or treaties, enacted by the houses of congress and signed into law!, by existing and/or past Presidents, until such time they are rescinded by law!

What else can one say?
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.