Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Calling All Republicans - Sub title: Legal Or Not, They Don't Say They Are Not Doing It

Dear Republicans,

Have a gander at this set of questions and lack of answers and ask yourself if you trust the W, Rove and Co any more. If so, why?

Legal or not, Scotty doesn't say they are not doing it (spying on purely domestic communications). Oh, and am I missing some late breaking news? Why have we not heard of the Portland Seven, the Lackawanna Six, the Virginia Jihad yet? Are members of these organizations real or fabrications? If they are real, why are they not arrested?

Q Scott, back on the Patriot Act, and on --

MR. McCLELLAN: She wore University of Texas colors in order to get called on. (Laughter.)

Q I get called on anyway. (Laughter.) Anyway, going back to the surveillance and the Patriot Act issue, people are concerned about their civil liberties. And we've heard the President say that he is doing everything he can in his power to protect civil liberties of the average Americans who could wind up coming into play under surveillance in the NSA program, as well as the Patriot Act. Can you detail how the civil liberties are being protected of average Americans?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think people are concerned about America being attacked again by a deadly and dangerous enemy. We saw what happened on September 11th, and this President is going to do everything within his power to help us connect the dots and disrupt plots and break up terrorist cells. The Patriot Act has helped us in a number of instances break up terrorist cells. Just to mention a few: the Portland Seven, the Lackawanna Six, the Virginia Jihad. Those are three specific examples where people have been brought to justice and prosecuted and sentenced to prison time. These were terrorists that were seeking to do harm to the American people.

As we engage in this war on terrorism, we must also be mindful of protecting people's civil liberties. And that's why the Congress, as they took up discussion of the Patriot Act and went to conference committee, they took into consideration these issues. And they looked at the Patriot Act. They looked at ways that it can be strengthened and improved, and they took steps to do that. Then what we saw at the end of the last session was that you had the Minority Leader, the Senate Democratic Minority Leader boast to political supporters about killing the Patriot Act. They were engaging in obstructionist tactics to try to kill the Patriot Act, as they said in their own words. He boasted to political supporters that Senate Democrats had killed the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is something that the American people recognize helps us to save lives and prevent attacks from happening. I think they understand the importance of the actions that we're taking.

And in that Act, it provides important safeguards and oversight to address these civil liberty issues. And it took steps to improve upon that in the agreement that was reached, and now Democrats are obstructing and holding that up from being approved.

Q But, Scott, again, the people who are against the surveillance, as well as the Patriot Act are citing --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think people, if they're not talking to people overseas that are al Qaeda members or related to terrorist organizations, they have to worry. And I think the American people understand that.

Q Because again, the Patriot Act, you could just be an innocent person and have a conversation on the street with someone --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, remember the inspector general more than six times at the Department of Justice has looked into this and found no abuse under the Patriot Act...

...Q Scott, do you believe the President has the legal authority and the power to tap into phone calls or email communications between two Americans on United States soil without a warrant?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the program that we're talking about here in the NSA authorization is relating to one party being outside of the United States. So one component of that has to be international --

Q I understand that. But you say, will do anything in his power to protect Americans.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- in nature. And I haven't talked to lawyers about that specific issue. There is authorizations --

Q So you're not sure whether he has the legal authority to do that, or could?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- under the Patriot Act that the President can take, and we are making use of those authorities to help break up cells and save lives. And we will continue to do so. The President will continue to do everything within his lawful power to protect the American people. I just don't have any more --

Q So you're not sure whether he has the power to do that or would use that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard any discussion of that.

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