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Bush, former NSA head defend domestic surveillance program

[JURIST] US President George Bush on Monday defended his authorization of the domestic surveillance [JURIST news archive] program employed by the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website], saying that he was acting under a Congressional mandate to protect the US from terrorist attacks. In a speech [transcript] at Kansas State University, Bush said the Terrorist Surveillance Program [White House position paper], as it is now being referred to by the administration, has been repeatedly reviewed in order to ensure that it is within the bounds of the law. Bush also said:

Federal courts have consistently ruled that a President has authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance against our enemies. Predecessors of mine have used that same constitutional authority. Recently there was a Supreme Court case called the Hamdi case. It ruled the authorization for the use of military force passed by the Congress in 2001 -- in other words, Congress passed this piece of legislation. And the Court ruled, the Supreme Court ruled that it gave the President additional authority to use what it called "the fundamental incidents of waging war" against al Qaeda.

I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means. It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics. It's an -- you've got the power to protect us, but we're not going to tell you how. And one of the ways to protect the American people is to understand the intentions of the enemy. I told you it's a different kind of war with a different kind of enemy. If they're making phone calls into the United States, we need to know why -- to protect you.
Also Monday, General Michael Hayden [official profile], the government's second-highest ranking intelligence officer and former NSA director, defended the program by describing the system as "narrowly targeted" [AP report]. The surveillance program, which was first revealed [JURIST report] last month, allows the NSA to monitor conversations of individuals suspected to be linked to al Qaeda without first obtaining a warrant. AP has more.

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