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Bush defends domestic spying program at NSA headquarters

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush on Wednesday defended his authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] in a visit to the agency’s headquarters, saying that “the work they do is vital and necessary, and I support them a hundred percent.” Bush responded to criticism that he lacks the legal authority to order the surveillance in his speech [transcript] to agency employees:

This terrorist surveillance program includes multiple safeguards to protect civil liberties, and it is fully consistent with our nation's laws and Constitution. Federal courts have consistently ruled that a President has authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance against our enemies.

My predecessors have used the same constitutional authority on numerous occasions. And the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress gave the President additional authority to use the traditional tools -- or "fundamental incidents" -- of war in the fight against terror when Congress passed the authorization for the use of military force in 2001. These tools include surveillance to detect and prevent further attacks by our enemies. I have the authority, both from the Constitution and the Congress, to undertake this vital program.
The Bush administration in recent days has stepped up efforts to counter criticism of the program with Bush speaking [JURIST report] at Kansas State University on Monday and US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] defending [JURIST report] the surveillance before a Georgetown University Law Center audience on Tuesday and in an online chat on the White House website Wednesday. AP has more.

Also on Wednesday, US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], sent Gonzales a list of 15 questions [text] he should expect during hearings on the surveillance program slated to begin February 6.

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