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Bush Defends Decision Domestic Surveillance Decision

19 December 2005

Mr. Bush has defended his authorization of the monitoring of some domestic e-mail and telephone calls, a program that has drawn harsh criticism in Congress.

Speaking before a news conference, Mr. Bush said that as president and commander and chief, he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the United States. He said after September 11, 2001, Congress gave him additional powers.

Mr. Bush said authorities must be able to act fast, so he authorized the interception of international communications of people with known terrorist links. He says this program is carefully reviewed every 45 days and members of Congress have been briefed on it. Mr. Bush said he has reauthorized the program more than 30 times since September 11, 2001.

President Bush said he wants to make it clear that the surveillance program is limited to those known to have ties to al-Qaida or its associates. He said the calls are intercepted if they go from outside the United States to within it or from the United States to outside the country.

Mr. Bush said he understands why members of Congress are voicing concerns about civil liberties, and that the government has a responsibility to protect the American people. He said open debate about how it does that would inform the enemy of American tactics. Mr. Bush said the government will monitor domestic calls if there is a need based on evidence. He said the government would ask a court for permission to monitor those calls.

President Bush also defended his decision to go to war with Iraq, saying it was not a mistake. Asked at the news conference what the biggest mistake was he has made, Mr. Bush said he realizes that some people think the Iraq invasion was a mistake, but he said the decision was the right one, and he is optimistic about the way forward for Iraqis. Mr. Bush said that optimism was confirmed when more than 10 million Iraqis went to the polls last week to vote for a permanent government.

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