December 17, 2005


Taking Liberties With the Nation's Security (RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, 12/17/05, NY Times)

YESTERDAY the Senate failed to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, as a Democratic-led filibuster prevented a vote. This action - which leaves the act, key elements of which are due to expire on Dec. 31, in limbo - represents a grave potential threat to the nation's security. I support the extension of the Patriot Act for one simple reason: Americans must use every legal and constitutional tool in their arsenal to fight terrorism and protect their lives and liberties.

Smart politics.

Radio Address by the President to the Nation (George W. Bush, The Roosevelt Room, 12/17/05)

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

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 September the 11th, 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 September the 11th, we've been on the offensive against the terrorists plotting within our borders.

One of the first actions we took to protect America after our nation was attacked was to ask Congress to pass the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act tore down the legal and bureaucratic wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorist threats. And the Patriot Act allowed federal investigators to pursue terrorists with tools they already used against other criminals. Congress passed this law with a large, bipartisan majority, including a vote of 98-1 in the United States Senate.

Since then, America's law enforcement personnel have used this critical law to prosecute terrorist operatives and supporters, and to break up terrorist cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio. The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do: it has protected American liberty and saved American lives.

Yet key provisions of this law are set to expire in two weeks. 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. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence officials have the tools they need to protect the American people.

The House of Representatives passed reauthorization 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 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.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2005 12:44 PM

Not that hard to get to the right of senator campaign finance torture.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 17, 2005 1:03 PM

Jim -

McCain gets an A+ from Ma Schafly. Seriously.

Posted by: ghostcat at December 17, 2005 2:22 PM

I suspect the main thought behind McCain's bill is his version of 'honor'. He just doesn't want American soldiers to be labeled the way they were at Abu Ghraib. He wants to prevent Americans from ever being labeled as war criminals.

What he doesn't get is that no one (no Russian, no Arab, no Frenchie, no Pakistani, no Chinese, no Serb) is ever going to accept his bill as having any meaning. The likelihood that Americans will be charged as war criminals will go up, not down, because now foreigners are going to try to use the US Courts, not just international bodies, to make their points.

We know many of the Democrats already view the American military as war criminals; it's a shame that McCain has paved the way for it to potentially happen.

And there are many in the judiciary who would just love to hamstring the military. McCain must not care about that, either.

It would be positively wild if this bill haunted a President McCain after a major terror attack on his watch. The Democrats would be after him, but I suspect many in the GOP would try to impeach him. And at that point, the NYT couldn't help him.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 17, 2005 4:33 PM

Jim, you have that right. I do not care what others think of us in foreign lands for they will think the worst of us no matter what we do. Therefore I would rather be effective than have their squalid regard. Actions speak louder than words, So Watch Us Go. (And envy us.)

Posted by: Mikey at December 17, 2005 5:15 PM

"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. ...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."

The days of cost-free coup attempts are over.

Posted by: Noel at December 17, 2005 8:21 PM

Actually, if McCain is ever President and a major attack occurs, I fully expect him to repeal the Bill of Rights in toto. He's already tried to destroy the First Amendment - why not go whole hog?

McCain's biggest vulnerability is not the possibility that the press may turn on him; it is that his very maverickness will leave him all alone at the precise moment he needs friends the most. He could find himself (as President) as isolated as Nixon or LBJ, without allies and without any base. And in his lust to make Congress fear him, like Nixon and LBJ, he may wind up as a modern-day King Lear, roaring around Washington, with only a fool to attend him.

Posted by: ratbert at December 17, 2005 8:51 PM

With respect to Congress, it's not like we haven't been here before - remember the Boland Amendment?

But it doesn't look like there are 60 votes to be found, not without an all-nighter.

I read somewhere yesterday that the opposition is further evidence of the criminalization of politics (specifically, of conservative Republicans), and what the Dems really want to do is force Bush to break the law, or catch him at it.

This is where the real battle is now. Perhaps after Sunday's speech, some votes will change in the Senate. If not, then start the Howard Dean pink t-shirt ads NOW. Remember, it was the black t-shirts ("Bush went overseas and all I got was this lousy T-shirt") that a few Democratic congresscritters waved around on C-SPAN back in the fall of 1991 that factored into 41's slide down to vulnerability and defeat.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 17, 2005 11:37 PM

Jim, Perot defeated Bush pere, not t-shirts nor raising taxes.

I'd sure like to know the truth about Perot and how one little creep was able to put Clinton into the White House -- twice.

Amazing story yet no investigative reporter has had the guts to touch it.

Posted by: erp at December 18, 2005 8:05 AM

True, erp. But when the enemy hands you a propaganda victory by mega-gaffe, then take it.

Posted by: Mikey at December 18, 2005 10:33 AM

Bien sur.

Posted by: erp at December 18, 2005 12:49 PM


If Bush Sr. had been the sort to put the little twerp in his place, he wouldn't have been in trouble in the first place. Sure Perot got 19% of the vote, but Bush was cooked by December 1991, mostly because he really didn't know what he wanted to do. It showed.

With respect to the t-shirts, it was the first time I can remember such disrespect shown to the President on the floor of Congress. Sure, the Dems were vicious to Reagan, and certainly Nixon, but not under the dome. Now, it's an addiction for them. The Republicans had their moments with Clinton, but it was never like this. Some of the GOP are more disrespectful to George Bush than they would be towards a President Kerry or a President Gore. Sad to say.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 18, 2005 4:09 PM

Jim, I'm in no way letting Bush off the hook. He was a wimp and a perfect example of a go along to get along Republican. My husband says of him that although he held some of the highest level jobs on earth, he left nary a footprint.

I hope I live long enough to learn about the little general and his presidential ambitions. I'll bet Clinton's footprints are all over it.

Posted by: erp at December 19, 2005 1:35 PM