--President George W. Bush, 2006 State of the Union
Do you want to prevent terrorists from launching another attack on U.S. soil? Then you had better get used to the idea of the government spying on people who have contact with al-Qaeda. Because that is what it is going to take to win this war. We live in an information age. If we don’t engage in wiretapping of individuals who have known associations with terrorist organizations, then we will not be able to prevent the next attack.
The President understands this. That is why he authorized a domestic eavesdropping program after September 11, 2001. So far the plan has been integral to the war on terror. Since President Bush began the surveillance program, we have intercepted plots to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, to smuggle missiles into the United States, and to detonate a fertilizer bomb in London. This plan has saved thousands of lives. And let’s not forget that Bin Laden just released another video. Members of al-Qaeda still spend their days trying to invent new ways to kill Americans. We are still in the middle of a war. Spying on your enemies is a part of every war.
Predictably, the ACLU doesn’t get that. The ACLU has been foaming at the mouth over the alleged invasion of civil liberties. But do you think the ACLU is going to win this war for you? Besides, it’s hard to exercise your civil rights when a nuclear bomb detonates in your backyard.
Someone really needs to send a memo to the ACLU that leading a national hubbub over the President’s terrorist surveillance program is only helping the terrorists. As CIA Director Porter Goss recently explained, the public disclosure of the surveillance program has greatly inhibited the ability of the NSA to track terrorist communications. "The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," Goss said.
Someone should also inform the ACLU that the President is acting well within the powers granted to him by the Constitution. As the Supreme Court observed in the watershed case, US v Curtis Wright Corp., the President necessarily possesses broad powers in the protection of national security, including a power to formulate foreign policy. This is because “the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of our country.” The President alone has intelligence information about national security issues that is generally unavailable to Congress. The President must be free to exercise the “executive power” granted to him by the Constitution if he is to act as this country’s protector when national security requires it. Incidentally, that is why Congress passed legislation following September 11 that gave the President the specific power to eavesdrop on calls that suspected al Qaeda operatives are making to the United States.
Let’s not forget that there has not been a single terrorist attack on US soil since this administration began taking it to the terrorists in earnest. The terrorist surveillance program is a crucial instrument for protecting the nation against another 9/11 style attack. FBI Director Robert Mueller said that leads generated from the program had been "valuable in identifying would-be terrorists in the United States." This is the means by which we might be able to foresee the next 9/11. Think about that.
Just one more thing: the only phone calls they’re monitoring are ones from people with known terrorist associations. As General Michael Hayden, the deputy director of national intelligence has explained, "this is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al Qaeda." So if you’re not chit chatting with people whose sole purpose is to kill Americans, then you don’t have anything to worry about.