A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The President's Press Conference

Here's the transcript from the President's press conference today.

And here is an excerpt:

Q On the NSA eavesdropping program, there seems to be growing momentum in Congress to either modify the existing law or write some new law that would give you the latitude to do this, and at the same time, ensure that people's civil liberties are protected. Would you be resistant to the notion of new laws if Congress were to give you what you need to conduct these operations?

THE PRESIDENT: The terrorist surveillance program is necessary to protect America from attack. I asked the very questions you asked, John, when we first got going. Let me tell you exactly how this happened. Right after September the 11th, I said to the people, what can we do -- can we do more -- "the people" being the operators, a guy like Mike Hayden -- can we do more to protect the people? There's going to be a lot of investigation and a lot of discussion about connecting dots and we have a responsibility to protect the people, so let's make sure we connect the dots. And so he came forward with this program. In other words, it wasn't designed in the White House, it was designed where you expect it to be designed, in the NSA.

Secondly, I said, before we do anything, I want to make sure it's legal. And so we had our lawyers look at it -- and as part of the debate, discussion with the American people as to the legality of the program. There's no doubt in my mind it is legal. And thirdly, will there be safeguards for the -- to safeguard the civil liberties of the American people? There's no doubt in my mind there are safeguards in place to make sure the program focuses on calls coming from outside the United States in, with an al Qaeda -- from a -- with a belief that there's an al Qaeda person making the call to somebody here in the States, or vice versa -- but not domestic calls.

So as I stand here right now I can tell the American people the program is legal, it's designed to protect civil liberties, and it's necessary. Now, my concern has always been that in an attempt to try to pass a law on something that's already legal, we'll show the enemy what we're doing. And we have briefed Congress -- members of Congress. We'll continue to do that, but it's important for people to understand that this program is so sensitive and so important, that if information gets out to how it's -- how we do it, or how we operate, it will help the enemy. And so, of course, we'll listen to ideas. But, John, I want to make sure that people understand that if it -- if the attempt to write law makes this program -- is likely to expose the nature of the program, I'll resist it. And I think the American people understand that. Why tell the enemy what we're doing if the program is necessary to protect us from the enemy? And it is. And it's legal. And we'll continue to brief Congress. And we review it a lot, and we review not only at the Justice Department, but with a good legal staff inside NSA.