Politically Correct Christmas Card
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
In addition, please also accept our best wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2004, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country or area of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual orientation of the wishers.
This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. "Holiday" is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).
Note: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wisher her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of it.
This greeting is void where prohibited by law.
The version that the socialist A.C.L.U. doesn't want you to send them:
(followed by a quote from the bible or Torah) ;-)
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/22/2005 04:29:00 PM
Published 12/23/2004 2:36:47 PM
NEW YORK -- Christmas in America is not a clash of civilizations, but rather a celebration of diversities. But to lots of people, it doesn’t seem that way. Across America school districts are forbidding the singing of Christmas carols, nativity scenes are being banned in public places, and in malls the "Christmas" sales" are now "Holiday" sales. Although we are part of the 20 percent of Americans that are not Christian and the 5 percent that do not celebrate Christmas -- unless the giving of gifts and gratuities constitute "celebrating," and if that is true then we are part of the 95 percent that are celebrants -- we have nothing against and are part of those who enjoy the entire Christmas experience. What’s not to like? People are friendlier and music fills the air.
However, we have the whisper of an unworthy thought that if polls were taken of only the givers -- the bosses, the employers, the apartment dwellers and all the myriad people from whom gifts are sought on a virtually obligatory basis, as opposed to the people with their hands out -- the percentages probably would tip more towards the Scrooges.
Personally we like Christmas carols --especially sung by Bing Crosby -- with their simple and elegant melodies and chord structures that have survived in the same manner as other folk songs that have been handed down through the ages, such as those of Scotland and Ireland.
We cannot see how our beliefs are jeopardized by someone else celebrating their beliefs -- particularly if the celebrations are those consisting, at least in part, of love, family values, spirituality, and giving thought to the less fortunate.
We would have a very fragile religion if 2000 years of our culture and beliefs were threatened by Bing Crosby singing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas (incidentally, written by a Jew), Santa Claus, and mistletoe. Now, if it were KKK celebrating their holiday by exchanging presents of bed sheets or singing carols beside burning crosses, or the Romans tossing another Jew on the Yule log, or the Ghost of Christmas's Past turning out to be Yasser Arafat in a Santa Claus suit, it would be another story. But until then, hand us the check books and turn up Bing Crosby.
Jews seem to be heavily involved in this repeal movement. They would do well to remember Pastor Niemuller's observation: In Germany the Nazis came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unions, and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I was a Protestant and I didn’t speak up. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.
The point is, of course, if Christmas is abolished from public display, can the fate of Chanukah and the myriad of other Jewish holidays be far behind?
Also, if the Christians are discouraged from buying Christmas presents, some thought must be given to the question, "Who is selling the presents to the Christians?"
And lastly, a word about the ACLU. The ACLU is an organization supported by many liberal Jews and is in the forefront of efforts for a public suppression of Christmas. They are also vocal in criticism of American treatment of terrorists. It is our respectful observation that it is the terrorists who have affected the way in which we now have to live our lives, have created serious economic consequences for us and caused the death of thousands of Americans -- and not Bing Crosby.
With these thought we want to wish our friends both Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah --as least as long as we are permitted to do so.
Jackie Mason is a comedian. Raoul Felder is a lawyer.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/22/2005 02:38:00 PM
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | 'Tis the season to get into arguments at the office Christmas party or the Chanukah dinner table. And these conversations rarely go well. But it's likely to happen, so brace yourself. Here are some notes likely to be hit, all off-key, this holiday season:
BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED: There are so many facts worth noting on this front, including that in its joint resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in 2002, Congress acknowledged that "the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people." That remains a fact — both that Saddam Hussein had, in fact, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and that the majority of Congress agreed that that was a fact and that in his willingness to have and use WMDs, the Iraqi tyrant was indeed a threat to us.
BUSH HATES BLACK PEOPLE: I got hooked on the PG version of "Golddigger," as much as the next radio listener, but Kanye West is digging deep and with very little to go on when he rants that a racist White House let blacks suffer as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. There is a lot of finger-pointing to go around, but the tragic story of Katrina has more to do with local corruption, bad infrastructure and bureaucratic bungling than racism. Levee design flaws, too, for instance, dating back to 1993 were also not George Bush's fault. And yet, we will continue to hear that Katrina was a racist "genocide" perpetrated by the Bush administration (as we did in recent congressional testimony).
THE ECONOMY IS IN THE TANK: Growth and jobs and the stock market are up. Unemployment is down and hovering near historical lows. While the Fed has raised short-term interest rates several times to stave-off inflation, long rates remain low. And the so-called housing bubble has yet to pop, and likely won't as long as home ownership remains a tax-advantaged event. Even the "New York Times" — no parrot of White House talking points — has had to admit that the economy is "booming."
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR'S SEAT WAS A "WOMAN'S SEAT": Quotas generally infuriate me as they should all fair-minded people. It's insulting to say "you're not good enough, so we'll judge you on a separate scale." And, yet, many wanted the president to do just that. Not only are the current Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and current nominee Samuel Alito men, but they are both believed to be pro-life. Of course, neither of those facts guarantee that they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that made abortion legal in the United States, because they are, as Roberts's Senate confirmation hearings demonstrated and Alito's in January are likely to, at heart, fair-minded jurists who will deal with the facts before them. They, if they stay true to form, will not legislate from the bench, which is what the president was looking for in a Supreme Court judge, and what every American who remembers his three branches of government from Social Studies class should expect.
TERRI SCHIAVO WAS ON ARTIFICIAL LIFE SUPPORT: The Florida woman whose hospice bed was the focus of the nation's attention early this year was starved to death when she was taken off nutrition at the request of her estranged husband. Say what you will about the case, but know that there were no extraordinary measures used to keep her alive. Terri Schiavo died because she was starved to death — no pro or con argument changes that one fact.
PRESIDENT BUSH TOOK AUGUST OFF: He's the president of the United States. We're at war. He meets with foreign dignitaries, communicates and has on-site Cabinet members at the ranch. And the media's there to yell at him like always. He's working. Every day in Crawford is a day at the office. I may get Christmas off, but the prez is working.
The list could go on, as it might at your celebrations. But you're on guard now. Maybe you'll be lucky. Look at Kanye across the table and remind him of all those unused buses in New Orleans — the ones that could have evacuated people, but were instead left to sit in a flooded lot. Then maybe you can both retire to the living room for Scrabble or Xeroxing at the office.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/22/2005 01:53:00 PM
Longtime Oriole Hendricks dies at 64
Beloved Baltimore coach, player suffers heart attack
By Jeff Seidel / Special to MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Longtime Oriole Elrod Hendricks died of a heart attack on Wednesday, one day before his 65th birthday.
With the exception of stints with the Cubs in 1972 and the Yankees in 1976 and 1977, Hendricks had been with the Orioles in some form since 1968. He played for the team in a few stints from 1968 to 1979. He was named the team's bullpen coach after the 1977 season and stayed there until the Orioles announced after this season that he would be reassigned.
Hendricks spent a total of 37 years with the Orioles as a player and coach. He missed 18 games this past season after suffering a mild stroke in April when the Orioles were in Tampa. But he returned and coached for the rest of the season.
The Orioles were reportedly concerned about the effects of another full season of travel on Hendricks and decided to reassign him. As he had done for several years, Hendricks served as Santa Claus at the team's annual Christmas party for underprivileged children on Monday. At the event, he said he wasn't sure what his role was going to be next year.
"I don't know; I have not been told," Hendricks said. "I did speak to [executive vice president of baseball operations] Mike [Flanagan] about a month ago about what I would like to do. But nothing so far. It's still in review."
Hendricks was well-known for how generous he was with his time in the community -- especially when it came to children. He ran one of the Baltimore area's most popular and well-respected baseball camps every summer, always getting big names to pop in and talk to and work with children. And the kids just loved it.
He was one of the organization's most recognizable faces and loved being with kids and making them smile. He sat for a long time on Monday at the party, letting children perch themselves on his lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. There were about 100 children and they all got pictures of sitting with Santa and smiling.
"It's a joy to watch the faces, the smiles, watching them open the gifts," Hendricks said. "It's a warm feeling."
Washington manager Frank Robinson was saddened by the news of Hendricks' passing. The two had been longtime friends and played and worked together.
"Elrod was a friend to a lot of people," Robinson said. "He was a great ambassador for baseball in the Baltimore-Washington area and a great ambassador for the Orioles. He was a smart individual. He helped a lot of baseball players."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Frank Robinson's tribute to Elrod Hendricks
12/22/2005 1:40 AM ET
Robinson pays tribute to Hendricks
Nationals manager saddened to learn of friend's passing
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
It was obvious to everyone who went to Spring Training that Nationals manager Frank Robinson and Elrod Hendricks were great friends.
Every time the Nationals/Expos finished playing the Orioles in an exhibition game in Florida, Robinson, who would normally go straight to his office to talk to the media, always walked across the diamond to talk to Hendricks, who was the Orioles' longtime bullpen coach. The conversation would last about 10 minutes before Robinson met with the media.
On Wednesday night, Robinson was saddened to learn that Hendricks, who worked for the Orioles for almost 40 years, died of a heart attack, just one day shy of his 65th birthday.
"Elrod was a friend to a lot of people," Robinson told MLB.com late Wednesday night. "He was a great ambassador for baseball in the Baltimore/Washington area and a great ambassador for the Orioles. He was a smart individual. He helped a lot of baseball players. I want to send my condolences to his wife and his boys. You can't say enough about him."
The last time Robinson and Hendricks spoke to each other was during the 2005 season after Hendricks recovered from a minor stroke. Robinson called Hendricks to see how he was doing.
Hendricks and Robinson were Orioles teammates from 1968 to 1971. Together, they won three pennants and one World Series. Robinson first met Hendricks during Spring Training of '68. Hendricks had the reputation of being the Babe Ruth of the Mexican League, but Robinson didn't believe Hendricks' reputation after looking at the latter's frame.
"They pointed him out and I said, 'No way. He's scrawny. He's not a home run hitter. He didn't hit 40-something home runs the year before,'" Robinson said.
Hendricks didn't put up Ruthian numbers in his 12 years as a big leaguer, but he turned out to be one of the better catchers in the game and a favorite of many Orioles pitchers, including Mike Cuellar and Jim Palmer.
"Nobody could throw a fastball by [Hendricks] and he used a heavy bat," Robinson said. "He was a tremendous teammate. He was always trying to do something to help, whether it was hitting, pitching or catching. He didn't step on people's toes. He was a real competitor. ... He was a take-charge guy when he was around the plate."
Hendricks also was a bullpen coach under Robinson, who managed the Orioles from 1988 to 1991. Robinson regrets that he never gave Hendricks a better role on his coaching staff. But Hendricks took his time making a decision on what role he wanted to play under Robinson.
"After I changed the coaching staff after the '88 season, I really wanted him to step up and get out of the bullpen," Robinson recalled. "I offered him any job that he wanted except being a hitting coach. He said, 'Wherever you want me to be.' He gave me that same answer three different times. At that time, I was a little upset with him, because I wanted him to make a decision. He didn't do it, so I said, 'OK, stay down in the bullpen.' He said, 'OK.' He was a tremendous help to me when I managed in Baltimore."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Posted by William N. Phillips, Jr. at 12/22/2005 05:29:00 AM
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Punish the Senate Filibuster Compromisers!
ALERT: By now, I'm sure you've heard about the so-called "deal" put together by "moderate" Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate, which will stop Sen. Frist from putting a halt to the Democrats' unconstitutional judicial filibusters but will allow a few of President Bush's nominees to be voted on and confirmed.
This "deal" was nothing less than a BETRAYAL of our President, the Senate Republican Leaders... and the United States Constitution.
Where the Democrats were trying to subvert the Constitution by demanding a super-MAJORITY of 60 Senators for confirming judicial nominees, seven Republican turncoats shredded the Constitution by cutting a deal allowing a "super-MINORITY" of just 14 Senators to block or confirm any nominee.
I AM ANGRY. LOTS of real conservatives -- hard-working, patriotic, red-blooded Americans who love our Constitution and believe it should be upheld -- are VERY ANGRY about this "deal". Look at some of the e-mails we received from our members today:
L. Hatchett: "In my opinion the November 2004 vote, the will of the people was thrown out, DELIBERATELY IGNORED AS A FACTOR and of NO consequence."
G. Anderson: "I give up... Congress is full of cowards who will never stand up for principle."
Joey: "Typical that the so-called Republicans caved in and allowed a bogus settlement at the last second."
E. Lathrop: "When I grew up in the early sixties, Majority ruled, no compromise, Representative democracy in action - somebody wins and somebody loses - tough luck. The Minority did not whine, they just tried to win the next time. Compromise is the language of weak people."
We received a LOT of e-mails, just like those. Our members are angry. I'M angry. I hope you're angry too. Angry enough to do something about it.
That's why we're here.
TAKE ACTION: Our members sent over 100,000 faxes, emails, letters, hand-delivered mailgrams, etc. to the Senate, demanding that they allow up-or-down votes on ALL of President Bush's judicial nominees.
The "Gang of Seven" Republican turncoats IGNORED you, IGNORED their constituents, IGNORED their duty... and IGNORED the U.S. Constitution.
So now they should pay the political price.
Out of the seven GOP turncoats (McCain, Graham, DeWine, Warner, Chafee, Collins, Snowe), THREE of them are up for re-election in 2006. Out of the seven Democrat "deal-makers" (Nelson, Byrd, Landrieu, Salazar, Pryor, Lieberman, Inouye), TWO of them are from "red states" and are up for re-election also.
That's FIVE Senators who made a "deal with the devil" to shred the Constitution -- and we're going to go after EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. But we need YOUR help to do it. Please donate right now to support our efforts in defeating these Senators who have betrayed the U.S. Constitution -- click here to contribute now:
Here's what we're going to do, starting RIGHT NOW:
* In Rhode Island, we're targeting Sen. Lincoln Chafee for defeat in the Republican primary. For the first time in years, Chafee has a likely conservative opponent: Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey. The RightMarch.com PAC finally has a good chance to take down one of the most liberal Republicans in the Senate, and replace him with a good conservative.
* In Maine, we're targeting Sen. Olympia Snowe for defeat in the GOP primary. We've got a great candidate to support against her: State Representative Brian Duprey, a conservative Navy veteran and homeschooling father of five. The RightMarch.com PAC is going to go all out to take down Snowe, one of the most prominent RINOs ("Republicans In Name Only") in the Senate.
* In Ohio, we're targeting Sen. Mike DeWine for defeat. There are no declared candidates running against DeWine in the Republican primary -- so we're going into Ohio and working with conservative organizations to RECRUIT one who can WIN. The RightMarch.com PAC is dedicated to removing RINOs from the Senate -- and DeWine scored a measly 68 in the American Conservative Union's ratings for 2004. It's time for him to go.
* In Nebraska, we're targeting Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson for defeat. Nebraska is a solid "red state" -- President Bush won the state with 66% of the vote in 2004, and Nelson squeaked by with just 51% of the vote in his last election. The RightMarch.com PAC is going to jump on this opportunity to take out one of the leading members of the judicial filibuster's "Gang of Fourteen", and replace him with a REAL conservative like former Attorney General Don Stenberg.
* In West Virginia, we're targeting Democrat leader Sen. Robert Byrd for defeat. West Virginia is another good "red state" -- President Bush won the state with 56% of the vote in 2004 (a 100,000 vote margin), and Byrd's standing in the polls is at its lowest in years. The RightMarch.com PAC has a chance to take out one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate (he scored an EIGHT in ACU's ratings in 2004), and finally replace him with an honest-to-goodness conservative: Iraq war veteran and Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer Hiram Lewis.
Five compromising Senators. Three GOP Senate seats, two Democrat "red state" seats. All up for re-election in 2006.
And the RightMarch.com PAC is targeting each one of them for defeat.
WE CAN DO IT -- but we need YOUR help. Are you ANGRY about what these people did? Then HELP US throw the bums out of office. Contribute NOW to our efforts to DEFEAT these back-stabbers:
NOTE: By the way, why not drop a note to each one of the "Gang of Fourteen", letting them know that because of their betrayal of the Constitution, you're going to be working to DEFEAT them in 2006? Here's their contact info:
Mike DeWine (OH): http://capwiz.com/sicminc/mail/?id=456&type=CO&state=OH
Lincoln Chafee (RI): http://capwiz.com/sicminc/mail/?id=40039&type=CO&state=RI
Olympia Snowe (ME): http://capwiz.com/sicminc/mail/?id=282&type=CO&state=ME
Ben Nelson (NE): http://capwiz.com/sicminc/mail/?id=10748&type=CO&state=NE
Robert Byrd (WV): http://capwiz.com/sicminc/mail/?id=622&type=CO&state=WV
Be sure to send this Alert to EVERYONE you know who's ANGRY about this treacherous "deal" in the U.S. Senate, and wants to REMOVE these five opponents of the Constitution! Thank you!
William Greene, President
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/21/2005 02:36:00 PM
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Thank You for Wiretapping
Why the Founders made presidents dominant on national security.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wants to be President, and that's fair enough. By all means go for it in 2008. The same applies to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who's always on the Sunday shows fretting about the latest criticism of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war on terror. But until you run nationwide and win, Senators, please stop stripping the Presidency of its Constitutional authority to defend America.
That is the real issue raised by the Beltway furor over last week's leak of National Security Agency wiretaps on international phone calls involving al Qaeda suspects. The usual assortment of Senators and media potentates is howling that the wiretaps are "illegal," done "in total secret," and threaten to bring us a long, dark night of fascism. "I believe it does violate the law," averred Mr. Feingold on CNN Sunday.
The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power--and endangering the country in the process.
The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.
The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."
On Sunday Mr. Graham opined that "I don't know of any legal basis to go around" FISA--which suggests that next time he should do his homework before he implies on national TV that a President is acting like a dictator. (Mr. Graham made his admission of ignorance on CBS's "Face the Nation," where he was representing the Republican point of view. Democrat Joe Biden was certain that laws had been broken, while the two journalists asking questions clearly had no idea what they were talking about. So much for enlightening television.)
The mere Constitution aside, the evidence is also abundant that the Administration was scrupulous in limiting the FISA exceptions. They applied only to calls involving al Qaeda suspects or those with terrorist ties. Far from being "secret," key Members of Congress were informed about them at least 12 times, President Bush said yesterday. The two district court judges who have presided over the FISA court since 9/11 also knew about them.
Inside the executive branch, the process allowing the wiretaps was routinely reviewed by Justice Department lawyers, by the Attorney General personally, and with the President himself reauthorizing the process every 45 days. In short, the implication that this is some LBJ-J. Edgar Hoover operation designed to skirt the law to spy on domestic political enemies is nothing less than a political smear.
All the more so because there are sound and essential security reasons for allowing such wiretaps. The FISA process was designed for wiretaps on suspected foreign agents operating in this country during the Cold War. In that context, we had the luxury of time to go to the FISA court for a warrant to spy on, say, the economic counselor at the Soviet embassy.
In the war on terror, the communications between terrorists in Frankfurt and agents in Florida are harder to track, and when we gather a lead the response often has to be immediate. As we learned on 9/11, acting with dispatch can be a matter of life and death. The information gathered in these wiretaps is not for criminal prosecution but solely to detect and deter future attacks. This is precisely the kind of contingency for which Presidential power and responsibility is designed.
What the critics in Congress seem to be proposing--to the extent they've even thought much about it--is the establishment of a new intelligence "wall" that would allow the NSA only to tap phones overseas while the FBI would tap them here. Terrorists aren't about to honor such a distinction. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," before 9/11 "our intelligence agencies looked out; our law enforcement agencies looked in. And people could--terrorists could--exploit the seam between them." The wiretaps are designed to close the seam.
As for power without responsibility, nobody beats Congress. Mr. Bush has publicly acknowledged and defended his decisions. But the Members of Congress who were informed about this all along are now either silent or claim they didn't get the full story. This is why these columns have long opposed requiring the disclosure of classified operations to the Congressional Intelligence Committees. Congress wants to be aware of everything the executive branch does, but without being accountable for anything at all. If Democrats want to continue this game of intelligence and wiretap "gotcha," the White House should release the names of every Congressman who received such a briefing.
Which brings us to this national security leak, which Mr. Bush yesterday called "a shameful act." We won't second-guess the New York Times decision to publish. But everyone should note the irony that both the Times and Washington Post claimed to be outraged by, and demanded a special counsel to investigate, the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, which did zero national security damage.
By contrast, the Times' NSA leak last week, and an earlier leak in the Washington Post on "secret" prisons for al Qaeda detainees in Europe, are likely to do genuine harm by alerting terrorists to our defenses. If more reporters from these newspapers now face the choice of revealing their sources or ending up in jail, those two papers will share the Plame blame.
The NSA wiretap uproar is one of those episodes, alas far too common, that make us wonder if Washington is still a serious place. Too many in the media and on Capitol Hill have forgotten that terrorism in the age of WMD poses an existential threat to our free society. We're glad Mr. Bush and his team are forcefully defending their entirely legal and necessary authority to wiretap enemies seeking to kill innocent Americans.
(Webmaster's note: The following is what I think and what I submitted this morning to the WSJ as a reader's response)
My family lost a loved one on 9/11. Conceivably that might have been prevented had we collected the words of terrorists. I will not wait until after burying another member of my family to place blame. Those who leak classified information to the press are traitors for they have already placed my family and nation at further risk.
We are at war. Our Constitution gives the President both the authority and responsibility to defend this country. Regardless of whether terrorists within our borders hold United States citizenship or not, they are the enemy and they deserve no quarter.
I want Congress to shut up [stop publicly talking about this classified program] and let the President do his job. If Congress wants something to do, it should hunt down those who leaked the NSA story to the press, see them fired, prosecuted, and strip them of their citizenship.
December 19, 2005 – commentary by Tim Sumner
Why does the NY Times want to extend civil liberties to America's enemies?
I believe, the NY Times, to further its political agenda, will do all that they can to undermine President Bush's presidency, even if it means more of us die here on our soil. What else explains the Times being both the leading critic of the Bush administration’s failure to "connect the [intelligence] dots" that might have prevented 9/11 and advocating for our enemies to be extended civil liberties – during wartime – that inhibit the effective gathering of intelligence to wage the War on Terror?
In Friday's 3,300-word "news" report entitled Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts the Times said:
"Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues."
So what proof did the Times offer in the above report to support their charge yesterday, in an editorial entitled This Call May Be Monitored, that President Bush authorized the NSA to do "illegal spying?" For the answer to that question.you have to read paragraph 27 of the Times' report:
"Some officials familiar with it say they consider warrantless eavesdropping inside the United States to be unlawful and possibly unconstitutional, amounting to an improper search. One government official involved in the operation said he privately complained to a Congressional official about his doubts about the program's legality. But nothing came of his inquiry. "People just looked the other way because they didn't want to know what was going on," he said."
So the Times proof is "some officials" who disagreed with the administration’s policy, "who [the Times] granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program," were allegedly ignored by "a Congressional official," and who, instead of living up to whatever oaths they took, broke the laws of the United States and divulged classified information to reporters who work for the New York Times, the Bush administration’s leading critic.
Yet even without proof of a crime, in paragraph 15 of their report the Times identifies President Bush’s co-conspirators, to wit, Congress:
"Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States - including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners - is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation."
Now some in Congress and the MSM are clamoring for an investigation, like Senator Carl Levin and host Tim Russert seemed to be yesterday, on NBC's Meet the Press. Mark Levin points out, "Within five minutes of the program’s start, Tim Russert invoked Richard Nixon. Sen. Carl Levin was asked if the president might have broken the law. He answered that if he didn't follow FISA he did... Russert continually referred to domestic spying on U.S. citizens." Mark Levin added this comment, "Neither he nor we know what's involved here. Some of those monitored may be citizens, they may not be. Some may also be receiving communications from al Qaeda operatives abroad, in which case warrants aren't required and their citizenship is irrelevant."
In its editorial, the Times also said:
"...Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency [the NSA] to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant – just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror."
The Times is factually incorrect. The Bush administration's view is terrorists are unlawful combatants and are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. Despite of this position, President Bush has afforded unlawful combatants protections. The Times assertion alone does not prove he has scrapped "American law and Army regulations." In fact, President Bush’s words appear to indicate the contrary:
"Of course, our values as a nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. Our nation has been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of Geneva and its principles. As a matter of policy, the Armed Forces are to treat detainees humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva."
In his address to the nation, this past Saturday morning, President Bush said:
"Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks."
In other words, he is following the law. He ended by saying:
"The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States."
The Times' assertions alone do not prove President Bush authorized the NSA to illegally monitor and gather the communications of the American people. Nor do they provide proof that he has authorized torture, disregarded the Geneva Conventions, or ordered anyone at Abu Grahib (or elsewhere) to brutalize detainees.
What President Bush has done is attempt to fix our nation's intelligence gathering abilities, win the War on Terror, and protect us here at home.
Some will say the Times is just fighting for people's rights.
I say they are fighting for the rights of America's enemies. Further, they are accusing President Bush of crimes without proof. The former might be very American of them but it is also very suicidal, seeing how those at the New York Times are also in the enemy's kill zone. The latter is merely business as usual at the Times.
Hold the Line
New York Sun Staff Editorial
December 19, 2005
Feature the new line of political attack the left is launching against the White House. It is criticizing the Bush administration for authorizing the government to listen in on telephone and email conversations between America and places such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. And the Democratic Party, in the latest evidence of the bubble-like separation from reality in which the party lives, is working itself into a lather from which it is going to take weeks to recover, if it can recover at all.
Rep. Charles Rangel yesterday sent out a press release headlined, "Rangel Condemns Spying on U.S. Residents." He accused the president of apparently choosing to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Senator Feingold called on the Bush administration "to stop this program immediately." The Democratic leader, Senator Reid, and his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, also expressed concern.
Reasonable people may differ over the correct place to draw the line between civil liberties and national security in wartime, but this strikes us as a pretty clear-cut case. The Fourth Amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
At issue is whether the listening in on overseas phone conversations is, in a time of war, "unreasonable." A person is now subject to a warrantless search when boarding an airplane, entering the New York subway system, or even entering the building that houses the office of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Why should an international phone call be inviolate?
Beyond the Fourth Amendment, the law that is said to restrict the Bush administration's activities is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But, contrary to what you may read in some other newspapers, that law does not require that all such surveillance be authorized by a court. The law provides at least two special exceptions to the requirement of a court order. As FISA has been integrated into Title 50 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 36, Subchapter I, Section 1802, one such provision is helpfully headed, "Electronic surveillance authorization without court order."
This "without court order" was so clear that even President Carter, a Democrat not known for his vigilance in the war on terror, issued an executive order on May 23, 1979, stating, "Pursuant to Section 102(a)(1) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1802(a)), the Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order." He said, "without a court order."
Now, Section 1802 does impose some conditions, including that "there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party." But the law defines "United States person" somewhat narrowly, so that it would not include illegal aliens or, arguably, those who fraudulently obtained legal status.
And if Section 1802 isn't enough, regard section 1811 of the same subchapter of the United States Code, "Authorization during time of war." It states, "Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress." Again, mark the phrase, "without a court order."
It certainly is the president's view, and ours, that Congress's declarations following September 11 formalized the state of war that was brought to us by our enemies. It will no doubt be debated whether the 15-day period is renewable. It is clear, though, that under the definitions included in the Act, "Foreign intelligence information" may include information concerning a United States person that is necessary not only to "the national defense or the security of the United States," but even merely to "the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States."
We are particularly encouraged by the suggestions in Mr. Bush's radio address over the weekend that he has been relying, at least in part, on his constitutional powers - and responsibilities - as commander in chief and that he sees the constitutional authority as trumping the restrictions of FISA. Wouldn't it be nice to see that sorted out by the Roberts-Scalia-Thomas wing of the Supreme Court? Certainly the drift we discern in the court so far - not to mention also back during, say, World War II - is that it isn't going to permit the opponents of the war to stand on ceremony.
America is in a war with Islamic extremists who are trying to defeat our country. "Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas," Mr. Bush said in his radio address. "But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late." The president said the activities he authorized by the National Security Agency "make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time."
The idea that this is shocking is an idea that has stranded the Democrats in the wilderness. The managing editor of this newspaper has long kept a Cold War-era poster above his telephone with the warning, "Most telephone circuits are not secured. Keep telephone conversations unclassified." Anyone who thinks that non-encrypted international phone or e-mail conversations are secure had to have been naive to begin with. But terrorists are sometimes naive, or careless.
The majority of Americans, we're confident, are grateful to Mr. Bush for setting the listening in motion and hope it succeeds in preventing another attack like the one on September 11, 2001. If this listening were not happening, it'd be a scandal. You don't even need a wiretap to predict that the same partisan Democrats who are now denouncing the president for supposedly infringing on civil liberties would be denouncing him for failing to take the steps necessary to protect us.
All the President's Spies
By Jed Babbin
Published 12/19/2005 12:09:32 AM
There are politically motivated criminals in our government who should be unmasked and punished to the fullest extent of the law. These people have leaked some of our most sensitive secrets and damaged our national security for no reason other than to discredit President Bush. Forget the Plame nonsense. That -- according to a CIA assessment -- caused no damage at all. No, I'm talking about the leaks of the secret CIA detention facilities in Europe and elsewhere where terrorist detainees are kept. I'm talking about the leak of a top-secret satellite program, apparently by three U.S. senators. And I'm talking about last week's New York Times report about the NSA's domestic intelligence gathering effort that's paying off handsomely. Or was, until the leakers told the Times.
Friday, in a report that the White House asked not be published because it could jeopardize ongoing anti-terrorist operations, the Times revealed that in 2001 the president authorized the National Security Agency to collect intelligence from conversations routed through the United States and possibly including people within the United States. And the media feeding frenzy aimed at declaring George W. Bush a criminal started all over again.
It's pretty clear that NSA's domestic intelligence gathering was -- and is -- legal. But before we get to that, we have to set the context for this debate correctly, which is more than the Times, the Washington Post, or any of the other politico-media will do. We need only two data points to accomplish that.
First, the last time a war was fought on American soil, the president then didn't merely authorize intelligence gathering within our borders, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus for anyone held in military custody (even though we didn't yet have a base at Gitmo), and declared that anyone opposing the war would be tried and punished under martial law in military courts. Thank heaven that George Bush isn't as radical as Abraham Lincoln was when he signed that proclamation in September 1862. Or as radical as FDR was in interning Japanese citizens in World War II.
Second, the price of inaction in the war against terrorists is too high. We know, from Mansour Ijaz's accounts and from the admissions Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger has made in several interviews, that the Clinton administration turned down Sudan's repeated 1996 offers of bin Laden on a silver platter because its lawyers didn't believe we had enough evidence to indict him in a U.S. court. Instead of telling the lawyers to find a way to put OBL out of business, the Clintons took the easy way out their lawyers had provided and let bin Laden get away. Now, we have a president who apparently tells his lawyers what Andrew Carnegie once told his.
In what may be an apocryphal story, 19th century industrial baron Carnegie, in a long meeting with his planning staff, endured a few "you can't do that" objections from a new lawyer. Carnegie took the young man into the hall and fed him a dose of reality: "Young man, I don't pay you to tell me what I can't do. I pay you to tell me how I can do what I want to do." And that sums up President Bush's approach to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
FISA requires that intelligence gathering regarding conversations to which "U.S. persons" are a party can only be done pursuant to a search warrant issued (usually in secret) by the special FISA court, made up of sitting U.S. district court judges and located in the Department of Justice building in Washington.
Second, the FISA court issues warrants based on findings of probable cause, like other U.S. courts issuing criminal search warrants. There are too many situations -- like the one we were in before 9-11 -- in which too many possible terrorists are talking to each other and their helpers to sort them out one by one and get individual warrants. Which is why the law, and the regulations that implement it, allow the Attorney General to bypass the FISA court.
The regulations implementing FISA clarify the law's exceptions to the requirements for a FISA court warrant. U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive, dated July 27, 1993, is the primary regulation governing NSA's operations. It is a secret document. (We at TAS, unlike the NYT, never, ever, disclose government secrets that may damage national security. What follows is taken from a declassified version obtained from an open source.)
Under Section 4 of USSID 18, communications which are known to be to or from U.S. persons can't be intentionally intercepted without: (a) the approval of the FISA court is obtained; OR (b) the approval of the Attorney General of the United States with respect to "communications to or from U.S. PERSONS outside the United States...international communications" and other categories of communications including for the purpose of collecting "significant foreign intelligence information."
USSID 18 goes on to allow NSA to gather intelligence about a U.S. person outside the United States even without Attorney General sanction in emergencies "when securing the approval of the Attorney General is not practical because...the time required to obtain such approval would result in the loss of significant foreign intelligence and would cause substantial harm to national security."
So FISA itself and USSID 18 provide a lot of swinging room for what the president ordered. If the people subjected to the intelligence gathering weren't "U.S. persons," if Attorney General Gonzales made certain findings (which he did, according to several accounts) and if the NSA went ahead because it reasonably believed it would lose significant foreign intelligence if it held its hand, the operation is legal. Period. Everyone who is ranting and raving about illegality has neither the facts (most of which we don't know) or the law and regulations (which weigh heavily in favor of legality) on their side.
In his Saturday radio address, the president said that the NSA program he authorized has been reviewed over and over, and reauthorized by him more than three dozen times:
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.
Illegal? I don't think so. A good idea? No, a great idea. Many of the congressional Dems whining the loudest about the president breaking the law (such as Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Dem on the Armed Services Committee) were almost certainly among those who were briefed repeatedly on the program since it began in 2001. In short, the Dems' objections are as hollow as the people shouting them to the television cameras. Let Congress ask its questions, and answer some as well. (Such as why weren't they concerned about this when they were briefed on it four years ago?) But let the intelligence be gathered.
America has lived in the shadow of 9-11 for more than four years. Everyone expects more terrorist attacks on our shores, but none has yet occurred. One reason for that is probably the NSA domestic intelligence gathering program.
We can do a lot, and must do it all. Spying on aliens and some "U.S. persons" here in accordance with the law, asking our allies to spy on Americans overseas, sharing intelligence gathered abroad with law enforcement authorities here, and much more. Our Constitution and laws set broad bounds for intelligence gathering. We should do everything within those bounds. Everything.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
December 17, 2005 – The White House plus commentary by Tim Sumner
Patriots and traitors
Today, instead of his weekly radio address, President Bush stepped up to the podium and addressed the nation:
"...In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
"This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.
"As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.
"The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad..."
READ THE REST OR SEE THE VIDEO
Some actually think people who leak classified information to the press are patriots who merely ensure "the people" learn what they have the right to know. The only people who have a right to know classified information are those with both a need to know it and the security clearance to learn it.
People who knowingly leak, give away, or sell classified information to the press are traitors, not patriots.
James Joyner, at Outside the Beltway, points out what then Secretary of Defense William Cohen wrote about leakers, five days before 9/11:
"The romantic notion that most leakers are earnest civil servants driven by conscience is touchingly naive. Most, in fact, are midlevel career or political appointees seeking bureaucratic advantage in the daily battles over making and implementing government decisions. Most other leaks come from a small number of career staff people seeking to undermine the policies of their political superiors, who have been duly elected or appointed but whom the leakers view as temporary interlopers in government. So much for leakers upholding the temple of democracy."
For those in Congress expressing "outrage" that President Bush authorized the NSA to intercept communications, originating here in the United States, with those abroad, NewsMax has this quote:
"The president has authorized NSA to fully use its resources - let me underscore this now - consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution to defend the United States and its citizens," the official said, adding that congressional leaders have also been briefed more than a dozen times.
In the Corner, at National Review Online, Mark Levin adds:
"...the FISA permits the government to monitor foreign communications, even if they are with U.S. citizens. A FISA warrant is only needed if the subject communications are wholly contained in the United States and involve a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Today's Los Angeles Times writes that the program "was designed to enable the NSA to monitor communications between Americans in the U.S. and people overseas suspected of having ties to terrorist networks." Fine. That's not illegal or even unusual. And these "experts" know it...
"...As the president said today, Congress has been consulted, and often. It's remarkable that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press failed to uncover this fact [emphasis added mine]. Indeed, they did the opposite. In addition to cherry-picking experts from the ACLU and the Clinton administration, the media are cherry-picking from their favorite politicians to give the opposite impression, i.e., that Congress was in the dark...
"...In addition to repeated congressional notification, the program has been heavily lawyered by multiple agencies, including the Department of Justice and NSA and White House, and is regularly reviewed. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of State Condi Rice have both insisted that program is legal. The fact that some might disagree with whatever legal advice and conclusions the president has received does not make them right or the program illegal. But at this point, we, the public, don't really know what these news stories are really about, do we?"
Who are these cherries the media picked, you ask? The usual suspects:
The "loyal" opposition pipes in:
"I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for," Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., told The Associated Press.
Added Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.: "The Bush administration seems to believe it is above the law."
"This is Big Brother run amok," declared Sen. Edward Kennedy.
And you guessed it:
"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Specter, R-Pa., calling hearings early next year "a very, very high priority." He wasn't alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday's New York Times, was troubling.
Is this any way to run a war? More importantly, with "friends" like these how the hell can we win?
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/20/2005 10:23:00 AM
Monday, December 19, 2005
[Congressional Record: December 17, 2005 (Senate)]
Mr. FRIST: Mr. President, a very brief comment on this time of year,
with a few reflections on a very special time--Hanukkah.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity, once again, to visit the
State of Israel. I say without reserve, the land of Israel touches my
soul. It does so when you are there and you have that opportunity to
visit the Old City, to visit the Western Wall.
I took the opportunity to meet with Israelis from all walks of life,
visiting several of the hospitals there, and visiting my professional
colleagues in medicine. I came to appreciate even more deeply the 4,000
years of distinct and vibrant Jewish culture, as well as the Jewish
people's hopeful triumph over adversity and persecution.
So now, as Jews all over the world begin to prepare for the
celebration of Hanukkah, which this year begins on December 25, I
invite my colleagues to reflect on its meaning and its relevance to the
continuity of Jewish culture and survival.
The First Book of Maccabees, a venerated ancient text, tells the
story of a revolt against a tyrant, the King Antiochus. King Antiochus
was a tyrant, a cruel leader, who attempted to outlaw the practice of
Judaism, to forbid the study of Torah, and to compel, to force the
worship of idols.
Joined by corrupt politicians in the land of Judea, he succeeded for
a time. Eventually, however, a popular uprising, led by a group who
called themselves the Maccabees--and that translates into ``hammer''--
expelled his forces and reclaimed the Temple that became the center of
the Jewish faith.
Upon entering the desecrated Temple, Jewish soldiers and priests
discovered that the eternal flame within had extinguished. The last
stores of oil, those last little bits of oil, would only keep the lamp
lit for a single day.
They lit the lamp with the oil that was left, and then something
miraculous happened. According to the ancient writings, instead of
burning down, the lamp oil continually filled and refilled and
refilled, and the light in the Temple burned for 8 full days.
One can think of this story of faith and perseverance as truly
emblematic of the Jewish journey. Just as, by God's grace, the lamp was
continually filled, continually replenished, so, too, has the Jewish
culture continued to thrive.
In honor of the rededication of the Temple and the Miracle of the
Lights, Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a
Menorah and drawing their families close.
Children play games and exchange gifts and, as every Jewish family
knows, potato latkes and donuts cooked in oil are holiday favorites.
As those of us who are Christian celebrate the birth of Jesus this
Christmas, let us also reflect on the story of Hanukkah and the ways in
which the Almighty touches our daily lives.
I do wish my fellow Americans of the Jewish faith a happy Hanukkah
and a safe, prosperous holiday season.
The East Room
10:32 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. Please be seated. Thanks.
Last night I addressed the nation about our strategy for victory in Iraq, and the historic elections that took place in the country last week. In a nation that once lived by the whims of a brutal dictator, the Iraqi people now enjoy constitutionally protected freedoms, and their leaders now derive their powers from the consent of the government. Millions of Iraqis are looking forward to a future with hope and optimism.
The Iraqi people still face many challenges. This is the first time the Iraqis are forming a government under their new constitution. The Iraqi constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the parliament for certain top officials. So the formation of the new government will take time as Iraqis work to build consensus. And once the new Iraqi government assumes office, Iraq's new leaders will face many important decisions on issues such as security and reconstruction, economic reform and national unity. The work ahead will require the patience of the Iraqi people and the patience and support of America and our coalition partners.
As I said last night, this election does not mean the end of violence, but it is the beginning of something new: a constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East. And we will keep working toward our goal of a democratic Iraq that can govern and self-sustain itself and defend itself.
Our mission in Iraq is critical in the victory in the global war on terror. After our country was attacked on September the 11th and nearly 3,000 lives were lost, I vowed to do everything within my power to bring justice to those who were responsible. I also pledged to the American people to do everything within my power to prevent this from happening again. What we quickly learned was that al Qaeda was not a conventional enemy. Some lived in our cities and communities, and communicated from here in America to plot and plan with bin Laden's lieutenants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Then they boarded our airplanes and launched the worst attack on our country in our nation's history.
This new threat required us to think and act differently. And as the 9/11 Commission pointed out, to prevent this from happening again, we need to connect the dots before the enemy attacks, not after. And we need to recognize that dealing with al Qaeda is not simply a matter of law enforcement; it requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States of America.
As President and Commander-in-Chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it. And after September the 11th, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al Qaeda.
After September the 11th, one question my administration had to answer was how, using the authorities I have, how do we effectively detect enemies hiding in our midst and prevent them from striking us again? We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al Qaeda here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives. To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks.
So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program. And it has been effective in disrupting the enemy, while safeguarding our civil liberties.
This program has targeted those with known links to al Qaeda. I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as our nation is -- for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens.
Another vital tool in the war on terror is the Patriot Act. After September the 11th, Congress acted quickly and responsibly by passing this law, which provides our law enforcement and intelligence community key tools to prevent attacks in our country. The Patriot Act tore down the legal and bureaucratic wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorist threats. It allows federal investigators to pursue terrorists with tools already used against other types of criminals. America's law enforcement personnel have used this critical tool to prosecute terrorist operatives and their supporters, and to breakup cells here in America.
Yet, key provisions of this law are set to expire in 12 days. The House of Representatives voted for reauthorization, but last week, a minority of senators filibustered the Patriot Act, blocking the Senate from voting to reauthorize key provisions of this vital law. In fact, the Senate Democratic leader boasted to a group of political supporters that the Senate Democrats had "killed the Patriot Act." Most of the senators now filibustering the Patriot Act actually voted for it in 2001. These senators need to explain why they thought the Patriot Act was a vital tool after the September the 11th attacks, but now think it's no longer necessary.
The terrorists want to strike America again, and they hope to inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th. Congress has a responsibility to give our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools they need to protect the American people. The senators who are filibustering the Patriot Act must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.
As we fight the war on terror, we'll also continue to work to build prosperity for our citizens. Because we cut taxes and restrained non-security spending, our economy is strong and it is getting stronger. We added 215,000 new jobs in November. We've added nearly 4.5 million new jobs since May of 2003. The unemployment rate is down to 5 percent, lower than the average of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Despite hurricanes and high gas prices, third quarter growth was 4.3 percent. More Americans own their own homes than at any time in our history. Inflation is low, productivity is high and consumer confidence is up. We're heading into a new year with an economy that is the envy of the world, and we have every reason to be optimistic about our economic future.
We made other important progress this year on the priorities of American families. We passed a good energy bill, and we're putting America on the path to make our economy less dependent on foreign sources of oil. We were wise with taxpayer's money and cut non-security discretionary spending below last year's level. We passed the Central American Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement to open up markets and help level the playing field for America's workers and farmers and small businesses. We passed bankruptcy reform and class action lawsuit reform. I appointed John Roberts as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States. Chief Justice Roberts is poised to lead the Supreme Court with integrity and prudence for decades to come.
We've got more work to do in this coming year. To keep our economy growing, we need to keep taxes low, and make the tax relief permanent. We must restrain government spending, and I'm pleased that the House today has voted to rein in entitlement spending by $40 billion, and I urge the United States Senate to join them. We must reduce junk lawsuits and strengthen our education system and give more Americans the ability to obtain affordable health insurance. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects our borders, strengthens enforcement and creates a new temporary worker program that relieves pressure on the border, but rejects amnesty.
I look forward to the Senate holding an up or down vote on Judge Sam Alito and confirming him by January 20th as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Judge Alito has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years. He's a highly respected and principled jurist and he will make our nation proud as a member of the high court.
As we prepare to spend time with our families this holiday season, we also stop to count our blessings. We're thankful for our courageous men and women in uniform who are spending the holidays away from loved ones, standing watch for liberty in distant lands. We give thanks for our military families who love and support them in their vital work, and who also serve our country. And we pray for the families of the fallen heroes. We hold them in our hearts and we lift them up in our prayers and we pledge that the sacrifice of their loved ones will never be forgotten.
I'll be glad to answer some questions here, starting with you, Terry.
Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. Are you going to order a leaks investigation into the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program? And why did you skip the basic safeguard of asking courts for permission for these intercepts?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me start with the first question. There is a process that goes on inside the Justice Department about leaks, and I presume that process is moving forward. My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy.
You've got to understand -- and I hope the American people understand -- there is still an enemy that would like to strike the United States of America, and they're very dangerous. And the discussion about how we try to find them will enable them to adjust. Now, I can understand you asking these questions and if I were you, I'd be asking me these questions, too. But it is a shameful act by somebody who has got secrets of the United States government and feels like they need to disclose them publicly.
Let me give you an example about my concerns about letting the enemy know what may or may not be happening. In the late 1990s, our government was following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone. And then the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak. And guess what happened? Saddam -- Osama bin Laden changed his behavior. He began to change how he communicated.
We're at war, and we must protect America's secrets. And so the Justice Department, I presume, will proceed forward with a full investigation. I haven't ordered one, because I understand there's kind of a natural progression that will take place when this kind of leak emerges.
The second part of the question is? Sorry -- I gave a long answer.
Q It was, why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I -- right after September the 11th, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That's what the American people want. We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program, because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that's important. We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent.
We use FISA still -- you're referring to the FISA court in your question -- of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect.
Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am -- I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.
Q Mr. President, you have hailed the Iraqi elections as a success, but some lawmakers say you are not focusing on the threat of civil war. Do you fear a civil war? And how hard will you push Iraq's competing political parties to get a government and a constitutional compromise?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. We look at all contingencies, but my optimism about a unified Iraq moving forward was confirmed when over 10 million people went to the polls under a -- and voted for a government under a new constitution. Constitutions tend to bind societies.
Now, there are some things we've got to watch, Adam, for certain. One, is we've got to help the Iraqi government as best as they need help, to stand up a government as quickly as possible. In other words, we're urging them: don't delay, move as quickly as you can, solve the -- get the political parties -- once the vote is completed, get the political parties together and come up with a government.
And it's going to take a while, because, first of all, the ballots won't be fully counted, I guess, until early January. And then, as I mentioned in my remarks, it take a two-thirds vote to -- first, to seat certain officials. Sometimes it's hard to achieve a two-thirds vote in legislative bodies. How about the Senate, for example? (Laughter.) But, nevertheless, it's going to take a while. And the American people have got to understand that we think in terms of elections, most of our elections end the day after the election. Sometimes they don't, Adam. (Laughter.) And so you're going to see a lot of give-and-take, and it's important for us to get this process moving forward.
Secondly, there is an opportunity to amend the constitution. You remember that was part of the deal with the Iraqis, in order to get this process moving. And we'll want to make sure we're monitoring and involved with that part. In other words, involvement doesn't mean telling the sovereign government what to do; involvement means giving advice as to how to move forward so a country becomes more unified. And I'm very optimistic about the way forward for the Iraqi people.
And the reason why is based upon the fact that the Iraqis have shown incredible courage. Think about what has happened in a brief period of time -- relatively brief. I know with all the TV stations and stuff in America, two-and-a-half years seems like an eternity. But in the march of history, it's not all that long. They have gone from tyranny to an amazing election last December. If I'd have stood up here a year ago, in one of my many press conferences, and told you that in the -- next year I make this prediction to you, that over 10 million Iraqis, including many Sunnis, will vote for a permanent government, I think you probably would have said, there he goes again.
But it happened. And it happened because the Iraqis want to live in a free society. And what's important about this election is that Iraq will become an ally in the war on terror, and Iraq will serve as a beacon for what is possible; a beacon of freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom and liberty. And as I say in my speeches, a free Iraq will serve as such an optimistic and hopeful example for reformers from Tehran to Damascus. And that's an important part of a strategy to help lay the foundation of peace for generations.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. So many questions, so little time.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep your question short, then. (Laughter.)
Q I'll do my best, sir. But, sir, you've shown a remarkable spirit of candor in the last couple of weeks in your conversation and speeches about Iraq. And I'm wondering if, in that spirit, I might ask you a question that you didn't seem to have an answer for the last time you were asked, and that is, what would you say is the biggest mistake you've made during your presidency, and what have you learned from it?
THE PRESIDENT: Answering Dickerson's question. No, I -- the last time those questions were asked, I really felt like it was an attempt for me to say it was a mistake to go into Iraq. And it wasn't a mistake to go into Iraq. It was the right decision to make.
I think that, John, there's going to be a lot of analysis done on the decisions on the ground in Iraq. For example, I'm fully aware that some have said it was a mistake not to put enough troops there immediately -- or more troops. I made my decision based upon the recommendations of Tommy Franks, and I still think it was the right decision to make. But history will judge.
I said the other day that a mistake was trying to train a civilian defense force and an Iraqi army at the same time, but not giving the civilian defense force enough training and tools necessary to be able to battle a group of thugs and killers. And so we adjusted.
And the point I'm trying to make to the American people in this, as you said, candid dialogue -- I hope I've been candid all along; but in the candid dialogue -- is to say, we're constantly changing our tactics to meet the changing tactics of an enemy. And that's important for our citizens to understand.
Thank you. Kelly.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. If you believe that present law needs to be faster, more agile concerning the surveillance of conversations from someone in the United States to someone outside the country --
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q -- why, in the four years since 9/11, has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. First, I want to make clear to the people listening that this program is limited in nature to those that are known al Qaeda ties and/or affiliates. That's important. So it's a program that's limited, and you brought up something that I want to stress, and that is, is that these calls are not intercepted within the country. They are from outside the country to in the country, or vice versa. So in other words, this is not a -- if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that.
I think I've got the authority to move forward, Kelly. I mean, this is what -- and the Attorney General was out briefing this morning about why it's legal to make the decisions I'm making. I can fully understand why members of Congress are expressing concerns about civil liberties. I know that. And it's -- I share the same concerns. I want to make sure the American people understand, however, that we have an obligation to protect you, and we're doing that and, at the same time, protecting your civil liberties.
Secondly, an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and we take that duty very seriously.
Let's see here -- Martha. Working my way around the electronic media, here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you have an obligation to protect us. Then why not monitor those calls between Houston and L.A.? If the threat is so great, and you use the same logic, why not monitor those calls? Americans thought they weren't being spied on in calls overseas -- why not within the country, if the threat is so great?
THE PRESIDENT: We will, under current law, if we have to. We will monitor those calls. And that's why there is a FISA law. We will apply for the right to do so. And there's a difference -- let me finish -- there is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to know the distinction between the two.
Q But preventing is one thing, and you said the FISA laws essentially don't work because of the speed in monitoring calls overseas.
THE PRESIDENT: I said we use the FISA courts to monitor calls. It's a very important tool, and we do use it. I just want to make sure we've got all tools at our disposal. This is an enemy which is quick and it's lethal. And sometimes we have to move very, very quickly. But if there is a need, based upon evidence, we will take that evidence to a court, in order to be able to monitor calls within the United States.
Who haven't I called on, let's see here. Suzanne.
Q Democrats have said that you have acted beyond law, and that you have even broken the law. There are some Republicans who are calling for congressional hearings and even an independent investigation. Are you willing to go before members of Congress and explain this eavesdropping program? And do you support an independent investigation?
THE PRESIDENT: We have been talking to members of the United States Congress. We have met with them over 12 times. And it's important for them to be brought into this process. Again, I repeat, I understand people's concerns. But I also want to assure the American people that I am doing what you expect me to do, which is to safeguard civil liberties and at the same time protect the United States of America. And we've explained the authorities under which I'm making our decisions, and will continue to do so.
Secondly, there is a committee -- two committees on the Hill which are responsible, and that's the Intelligence Committee. Again, any public hearings on programs will say to the enemy, here's what they do; adjust. This is a war. Of course we consult with Congress and have been consulting with Congress and will continue to do so.
Wendell. You got a little problem there, Wendell? (Laughter.)
Q I'm caught, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you're caught. (Laughter.) Liberate him. (Laughter.)
Q You talked about your decision to go to war and the bad intelligence, and you've carefully separated the intelligence from the decision, saying that it was the right decision to go to war despite the problems with the intelligence, sir. But, with respect, the intelligence helped you build public support for the war. And so I wonder if now, as you look back, if you look at that intelligence and feel that the intelligence and your use of it might bear some responsibility for the current divisions in the country over the war, and what can you do about it?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. First of all, I can understand why people were -- well, wait a minute. Everybody thought there was weapons of mass destruction, and there weren't any. I felt the same way. We looked at the intelligence and felt certain that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Intelligence agencies around the world felt the same way, by the way. Members of the United States Congress looked at the National Intelligence Estimate -- same intelligence estimate I looked at -- and came to the same conclusion, Wendell.
So in other words, there was universal -- there was a universal feeling that he had weapons of mass destruction. As a matter of fact, it was so universal that the United Nations Security Council passed numerous resolutions. And so when the weapons weren't there, like many Americans, I was concerned and wondered why. That's why we set up the Silberman-Robb Commission to address intelligence shortfalls, to hopefully see to it that this kind of situation didn't arise.
Now, having said all that, what we did find after the war was that Saddam Hussein had the desire to -- or the liberation -- Saddam had the desire to reconstitute his weapons programs. In other words, he had the capacity to reconstitute them. America was still his enemy. And of course, he manipulated the oil-for-food program in the hopes of ending sanctions. In our view, he was just waiting for the world to turn its head, to look away, in order to reconstitute the programs. He was dangerous then. It's the right decision to have removed Saddam.
Now, the American people -- I will continue to speak to the American people on this issue, to not only describe the decision-making process but also the way forward. I gave a speech prior to the liberation of Iraq, when I talked about a broader strategic objective, which is the establishment of democracy. And I've talked about democracy in Iraq. Certainly it's not the only rationale; I'm not claiming that. But I also want you to review that speech so that you get a sense for not only the desire to remove a threat, but also the desire to help establish democracy. And the amazing thing about -- in Iraq, as a part of a broader strategy, to help what I call "lay the foundation of peace," democracies don't war; democracies are peaceful countries.
And what you're seeing now is an historic moment, because I believe democracies will spread. I believe when people get the taste for freedom or see a neighbor with a taste for freedom, they will demand the same thing, because I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe everybody has the desire to be free. I recognize some don't believe that, which basically condemns some to tyranny. I strongly believe that deep in everybody's soul is the desire to live in liberty, and if given a chance, they will choose that path. And it's not easy to do that. The other day, I gave a speech and talked about how our road to our Constitution, which got amended shortly after it was approved, was pretty bumpy. We tried the Articles of Confederation. It didn't work. There was a lot of, kind of, civil unrest. But, nevertheless, deep in the soul is the desire to live in liberty, people -- make the -- have got the patience and the steadfastness to achieve that objective. And that is what we're seeing in Iraq.
And it's not going to be easy. It's still going to be hard, because we're getting rid of decades of bitterness. If you're a -- you know, you find these secret prisons where people have been tortured, that's unacceptable. And, yet, there are some who still want to have retribution against people who harmed them.
Now, I'll tell you an amazing story -- at least I thought it was amazing. We had people -- first-time voters, or voters in the Iraqi election come in to see me in the Oval. They had just voted that day, and they came in. It was exciting to talk to people. And one person said, how come you're giving Saddam Hussein a trial? I said, first of all, it's your government, not ours. She said, he doesn't deserve a trial; he deserves immediate death for what he did to my people. And it just struck me about how strongly she felt about the need to not have a rule of law, that there needed to be quick retribution, that he didn't deserve it. And I said to her, don't you see that the trial, itself, stands in such contrast to the tyrant that that in itself is a victory for freedom and a defeat for tyranny -- just the trial alone. And it's important that there be rule of law.
My only point to you is there's a lot of work to get rid of the past, yet we're headed in the right direction. And it's an exciting moment in history.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the domestic spying issue for a moment. According to FISA's own records, it's received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn't be a concern, and it can be applied retroactively. Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process?
THE PRESIDENT: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different -- a different era, a different war, Stretch. So what we're -- people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a -- it requires quick action.
And without revealing the operating details of our program, I just want to assure the American people that, one, I've got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we're guarding your civil liberties. And we're guarding the civil liberties by monitoring the program on a regular basis, by having the folks at NSA, the legal team, as well as the inspector general, monitor the program, and we're briefing Congress. This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties. I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job.
Let's see here -- Sanger.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Following up on Wendell's question about the intelligence failures ahead of Iraq, one of the side effects appears to have been that the United States has lost some credibility with its allies when it goes to them with new intelligence. You, for example, your administration, has been sharing with some of your allies the contents of a laptop computer that was found in Iran concerning their nuclear program. Yet you are still having --
THE PRESIDENT: Is that classified? (Laughter.) No, never mind, Sanger.
Q Yet you are still having some difficulty convincing people that Iran has a nuclear program. Can you tell us whether or not you think one of the side effects of the intelligence failure has been that it has limited your ability to deal with future threats like Iran, like North Korea, or any other future threats concerning terrorists?
THE PRESIDENT: Sanger, I hate to admit it, but that's an excellent question. No question, that the intelligence failure on weapons of mass destruction caused all intelligence services to have to step back and reevaluate the process of gathering and analyzing intelligence -- no doubt about that. And so there's been a lot of work done to work with other intelligence agencies to share information about what went right and what went wrong, as well as to build credibility among all services.
I think, David, where it is going to be most difficult to make the case is in the public arena. People will say, if we're trying to make the case on Iran, well, the intelligence failed in Iraq, therefore, how can we trust the intelligence in Iran? And part of the reason why there needs to be a public message on this is because the first hope and the first step is a diplomatic effort to get the Iranians to comply with the demands of the free world. If they don't, there's -- along the diplomatic path, there's always the United Nations Security Council. But that case of making -- beginning to say to the Iranians, there are consequences for not behaving, requires people to believe that the Iranian nuclear program is, to a certain extent, ongoing. And so we're working hard on that. I mean, it's no question that the credibility of intelligence is necessary for good diplomacy.
Q Do you intend to make that case publicly, too? You haven't yet laid out the evidence on Iran --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that the best place to make the case now is still in the councils of government and convincing the EU3, for example, to continue working the diplomatic angle. Of course, we want this to be solved diplomatically, and we want the Iranians to hear a unified voice. I think people believe that -- I know this: People know that an Iran with the capacity to manufacture a nuclear weapon is not in the world's interest. That's universally accepted. And that should be accepted universally, particularly after what the President recently said about the desire to annihilate, for example, an ally of the United States.
And so the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is -- people say, well, we can't let that happen. The next step is to make sure that the world understands that the capacity to enrich uranium for a civilian program would lead to a weapons program. And so therefore we cannot allow the Iranians to have the capacity to enrich. One of the reasons why I proposed working with the Russians, the Russian idea of allowing Iran to have a civilian nuclear power plant industry without enriched material -- in other words, the enriched materials -- without enriching material, the enriching material would come from Russia, in this case, and be picked up by the Russians, was to prevent them from having the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon.
So I think there's universal agreement that we don't want them to have a weapon. And there is agreement that they should not be allowed to learn how to make a weapon. And beyond that, I think that's all I'm going to say.
But, appreciate it. Baker.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."
Q Well --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.
This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.
Q What limits do you --
THE PRESIDENT: I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.
Q Thank you, sir. Looking ahead to this time next year, what are the top three or top five -- take your pick -- accomplishments that you hope to have achieved? And in particular, what is your best-case scenario for troop levels in Iraq at this time next year?
THE PRESIDENT: This is kind of like -- this is the ultimate benchmark question. You're trying to not only get me to give benchmarks in Iraq, but also benchmarks domestically.
I hope the world is more peaceful. I hope democracy continues to take root around the world. And I hope people are able to find jobs. The job base of this country is expanding, and we need to keep it that way. We want people working. I want New Orleans and Mississippi to be better places. I appreciate very much the progress that Congress is making toward helping a vision of New Orleans rising up and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi being reconstructed. I think we can make good progress down there.
One of the key decisions our administration has made is to make sure that the levees are better than they were before Katrina in New Orleans. That will help -- people will have the confidence necessary to make investments and to take risk and to expand.
I appreciate the Congress, and I'm looking forward to the Senate affirming the U.S. Congress' decisions to fund the education or reimburse states for education. There's some good health care initiatives in the bill. We want to make sure that people don't get booted out of housing. We want to work carefully to make sure people understand that there are benefits or help available for them to find housing. We want to continue to move temporary housing on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi so people can get better -- closer to their neighborhoods, and get their homes rebuilt. We want to start helping Mayor Nagin get temporary housing near New Orleans so as this economy comes back people will be able to find jobs.
I appreciate the fact that the Congress passed the GO Zone tax incentives in order to attract capital into the region. So one of my hopes is, is that people are able to find hope and optimism after the Katrina disaster down there, that people's lives get up and running again, that people see a brighter future. I've got a lot of hopes, and I'm looking forward to working with Congress to get those -- to achieve some big goals.
THE PRESIDENT: You see, I hope by now you've discovered something about me, that when I say we're not going to have artificial timetables of withdrawal, and/or try to get me out on a limb on what the troop levels will look like -- the answer to your question on troop levels is, it's conditions-based. We have an objective in Iraq, and as we meet those objectives, our commanders on the ground will determine the size of the troop levels.
Nice try. End of your try.
Q Mr. President, you said last night that there were only two options in Iraq -- withdraw or victory. And you asked Americans, especially opponents of the war, to reject partisan politics. Do you really expect congressional Democrats to end their partisan warfare and embrace your war strategy? And what can you do about that to make that happen?
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I said that victory in Iraq is much larger than a person, a President, or a political party. And I've had some good visits with Senate and House Democrats about the way forward. They share the same concerns I share. You know, they want our troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible, but they don't want to do so without achieving a victory. These are good, solid Americans that agree that we must win for the sake of our security. And I'm interested in, Joe, their ideas, and will continue to listen carefully to their ideas.
On the other hand, there are some in this country that believe, strongly believe that we ought to get out now. And I just don't agree with them. It's a wrong strategy, and I'd like to tell you again why. One, it would dishearten the Iraqis. The Iraqis are making a great -- showing great courage to setting up a democracy. And a democracy in Iraq -- I know I've said this, and I'm going to keep saying it because I want the American people to understand -- a democracy in Iraq is vital in the long run to defeating terrorism. And the reason why is, is because democracy is hopeful and optimistic.
Secondly, it sends the wrong signal to our troops. We've got young men and women over their sacrificing. And all of a sudden, because of politics or some focus group or some poll, they stand up and say, we're out of there. I can't think of anything more dispiriting to a kid risking his or her life than to see decisions made based upon politics.
Thirdly, it sends the wrong signal to the enemy. It just says, wait them out; they're soft, they don't have the courage to complete the mission -- all we've got to do is continue to kill and get these images on the TV screens, and the Americans will leave. And all that will do is embolden these people. Now, I recognize there is a debate in the country, and I fully understand that, about the nature of the enemy. I hear people say, because we took action in Iraq, we stirred them up, they're dangerous. No, they were dangerous before we went into Iraq. That's what the American people have got to understand. That's why I took the decision I took on the NSA decision, because I understand how dangerous they are. And they want to hit us again.
Let me say something about the Patriot Act, if you don't mind. It is inexcusable for the United States Senate to let this Patriot Act expire. You know, there's an interesting debate in Washington, and you're part of it, that says, well, they didn't connect the dots prior to September the 11th -- "they" being not only my administration, but previous administrations. And I understand that debate. I'm not being critical of you bringing this issue up and discussing it, but there was a -- you might remember, if you take a step back, people were pretty adamant about hauling people up to testify, and wondering how come the dots weren't connected.
Well, the Patriot Act helps us connect the dots. And now the United States Senate is going to let this bill expire. Not the Senate -- a minority of senators. And I want senators from New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to go home and explain why these cities are safer. It is inexcusable to say, on the one hand, connect the dots, and not give us a chance to do so. We've connected the dots, or trying to connect the dots with the NSA program. And, again, I understand the press and members of the United States Congress saying, are you sure you're safeguarding civil liberties. That's a legitimate question, and an important question. And today I hope I'll help answer that. But we're connecting dots as best as we possibly can.
I mentioned in my radio address -- my live TV radio address -- that there was two killers in San Diego making phone calls prior to the September the 11th attacks. Had this program been in place then, it is more likely we would have been able to catch them. But they're making phone calls from the United States, overseas, talking about -- who knows what they're talking about, but they ended up killing -- being a part of the team that killed 3,000 Americans. And so -- I forgot what got me on the subject, but nevertheless I'm going to -- we're doing the right thing.
Q Mr. President, in making the case for domestic spying, could you tell us about the planned attacks on the U.S. that were thwarted through your domestic spying plan? And also, on the issue of race, since you brought up the issue of Katrina, 2005 gave us your defense of yourself on race, and some are still not sold on that. In 2006, what are you giving to the nation on the issue of race, as we're looking to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2007 and things of that nature?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. April, the fact that some in America believe that I am not concerned about race troubles me. One of the jobs of the President is to help people reconcile and to move forward and to unite. One of the most hurtful things I can hear is, Bush doesn't care about African Americans, for example. First of all, it's not true. And, secondly, I believe that -- obviously I've got to do a better job of communicating, I guess, to certain folks, because my job is to say to people, we're all equally American, and the American opportunity applies to you just as much as somebody else. And so I will continue to do my best, April, to reach out.
Now, you talked about -- and we have an opportunity, by the way, in New Orleans, for example, to make sure the education system works, to make sure that we promote ownership. I think it is vitally important for ownership to extend to more than just a single community. I think the more African Americans own their own business, the better off America is. I feel strongly that if we can get people to own and manage their own retirement accounts, like personal accounts and Social Security, it makes society a better place. I want people to be able to say, this is my asset. Heretofore, kind of asset accumulation may have been only a part of -- a single -- a part of -- a segmented part of our strategy. We want assets being passed from one generation to the next. I take pride in this statistic, that more African Americans own a home or more minorities own a home now than ever before in our nation's history, not just African Americans; that's positive.
I still want to make sure, though, that people understand that I care about them and that my view of the future, a bright future, pertains to them as much as any other neighborhood.
Now, you mentioned it's the Voting Rights Act. Congress needs to reauthorize it and I'll sign it.
The other question was?
Q Sir --
THE PRESIDENT: You asked a multiple-part question.
Q Yes, I did.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for violating the multiple-part question rule.
Q I didn't know there was a law on that. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: There's not a law. It's an executive order. (Laughter.) In this case, not monitored by the Congress -- (laughter) -- nor is there any administrative oversight. (Laughter.)
Q Well, without breaking any laws, on to -- back on domestic spying. Making the case for that, can you give us some example --
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I got you. Yes, sorry. No, I'm not going to talk about that, because it would help give the enemy notification and/or, perhaps, signal to them methods and uses and sources. And we're not going to do that, which is -- it's really important for people to understand that the protection of sources and the protections of methods and how we use information to understand the nature of the enemy is secret. And the reason it's secret is because if it's not secret, the enemy knows about it, and if the enemy knows about it, adjusts.
And again, I want to repeat what I said about Osama bin Laden, the man who ordered the attack that killed 3,000 Americans. We were listening to him. He was using a type of cell phone, or a type of phone, and we put it in the newspaper -- somebody put it in the newspaper that this was the type of device he was using to communicate with his team, and he changed. I don't know how I can make the point more clear that any time we give up -- and this is before they attacked us, by the way -- revealing sources, methods, and what we use the information for simply says to the enemy: change.
Now, if you don't think there's an enemy out there, then I can understand why you ought to say, just tell us all you know. I happen to know there's an enemy there. And the enemy wants to attack us. That is why I hope you can feel my passion about the Patriot Act. It is inexcusable to say to the American people, we're going to be tough on terror, but take away the very tools necessary to help fight these people. And by the way, the tools exist still to fight medical fraud, in some cases, or other -- drug dealers. But with the expiration of the Patriot Act, it prevents us from using them to fight the terrorists. Now, that is just unbelievable. And I'm going to continue talking about this issue and reminding the American people about the importance of the Patriot Act and how necessary it is for us in Washington, D.C. to do our job to protect you.
Let's see, who else? Jackson -- Action Jackson. Got him a new job and everything.
Q Thank you, sir. One of the things we've seen this year is the reduction in your approval rating. And I know how you feel about polls, but it appears to be taking something out of your political clout, as evidenced by the Patriot Act vote. What do you attribute your lower polls to, and are you worried that independents are losing confidence in your leadership?
THE PRESIDENT: David, my job is to confront big challenges and lead. And I fully understand everybody is not going to agree with my decisions. But the President's job is to do what he thinks is right, and that's what I'm going to continue to do.
Secondly, if people want to play politics with the Patriot Act, it's -- let me just put it -- it's not in the best interests of the country, David. And yesterday -- or this morning I spoke to the Speaker, who called me. He said, Mr. President, we had a pretty good couple of days; got your budget passed, got the Katrina relief package going forward; we're supporting our troops; we've got the free trade -- we talked about passing CAFTA in the past. I mean, we've done a lot. And it's good for the country, by the way.
So I'm just going to keep doing my job. Maybe you can keep focusing on all these focus groups and polls, and all that business. My job is to lead, keep telling the American people what I believe, work to bring people together to achieve a common objective, stand on principle, and that's the way I'm going to lead. I did so in 2005, and I'm going to do so in 2006.
Thank you all for coming, and happy holidays to you. Appreciate it.
END 11:28 A.M. EST
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/19/2005 12:59:00 PM