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Bush acknowledges approving secret eavesdropping on US residents

[JURIST] In his weekly radio address [transcript] Saturday, President Bush acknowledged that he has approved secret eavesdropping in the US [JURIST report] and said that he has no intention of putting an end to National Security Agency [official website] monitoring of possibly thousands of international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of US residents without warrants. Calling the program "crucial to our national security," Bush defended the program as "consistent with US law and the Constitution" and said it is narrowly drawn to only intercept communications of people determined to have a "clear link" to terrorist organizations. He further said:

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.
The program was first reported by the media in a New York Times report Friday and Bush said that information about the program had been improperly leaked to news organizations and warned that the unauthorized disclosure was illegal. Friday evening, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) promised to hold hearings to investigate the "inappropriate" granting of powers to the NSA to spy on Americans. AP has more.

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