Well, thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, thank you very much and thank you for the warm welcome. It's great to be back at Heritage. In 2006 Heritage will mark its 33rd anniversary, and in all these years this has been one of the leading think tanks in the country. The Foundation has been a place of sound ideas, of intellectual leadership, and first-rate scholarship. Your standards have never wavered. You've made a tremendous contribution to the debate in this city and the nation. And you've earned the respect and the appreciation of all of us who are privileged to serve in public office.Now if that is not playing politics with 9/11 then I don't know what is. You all should note, the Veep does express his support of the illegal domestic spying program, but never acknowledges that it quite possibly violates the Constitution. And more importantly, you see, there is a big difference between briefing members of congress and having some kind of congressional oversight for the actions of the executive branch.
As always when I pay a visit, I notice a number of old friends in the room. It's good to see all of you, and it looks like everybody pretty well recovered from their New Year's celebrations...
...That effort includes a home front, with a great deal of urgent and difficult work and needed to persevere. In his speech to Congress after 9/11, President Bush said that the United States would, and I quote, "direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network." The Congress of the United States backed him up in full, authorizing the President to defeat an enemy that had already slipped into our country and waged a horrific attack that killed 3,000 innocent, unsuspecting men, women, and children on 9/11.
The President also signed the Patriot Act, which removed the artificial barrier that used to exist between law enforcement and intelligence, and gave federal officials the ability to pursue terrorists with the tools they already use against drug traffickers and other kinds of criminals. There was no need for a tie-breaking vote on the Patriot Act, because the Senate passed it 98 to one. (Applause.)
It's important to note that leaders of Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on the President's authorization, and on activities conducted under it. I have personally presided over most of those briefings. In addition, the entire program undergoes a thorough review within the executive branch approximately every 45 days. After each review, the President determines whether to reauthorize the program. He has done so more than 30 times since September 11th -- and he has indicated his intent to do so as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and similar organizations.So, if this program was highly classified, why do we know about it and what else are they doing that we don't know about? Still trust them, republicans? Oh, and what about that other leak - you know, the one that led to the destruction of Valarie Plame's career?
The existence of this program was highly classified, and information about it was improperly provided to the news media, to the clear detriment of our national security.