Correct me if I am wrong, but there is a gigantic difference between "Will Not" and "Have Not" spied domestically, no?
Q Members of your administration have said that the secret eavesdropping program might have prevented the September 11th attacks. But the people who hijacked the planes on September 11th had been in this country for years, having domestic phone calls and emails. So how, specifically, can you say that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Michael Hayden said that because he believes that had we had the capacity to listen to the phone calls from those from San Diego to elsewhere we might have gotten information necessary to prevent the attack. And that's what he was referring to.
Q They were domestic calls --
THE PRESIDENT: No, domestic outside -- we will not listen inside this country. It is a call from al Qaeda, al Qaeda affiliates, either from inside the country out, or outside the country in, but not domestically.
Again, we see that simply because the President says something does not make it true:
Q Your explanation on the monitoring program seems to say that when the nation is at war, the President, by definition, can order measures that might not be acceptable or even, perhaps, legal in peacetime. And this seems to sound like something President Nixon once said, which was "when the President does it, then that means it is not illegal," in the areas involving national security. So how do the two differ?Again I ask, do you feel "protected?" And for the final rhetorical trick of the day, we finally get to see this whole hoopla about the President's opposition to the term "circumventing."
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I said yesterday that other Presidents have used the same authority I've had to use technology to protect the American people. Other Presidents -- most Presidents believe that during a time of war, that we can use our authorities under the Constitution to make decisions necessary to protect us.
Secondly, in this case, there is an act passed by Congress in 2001 which said that I must have the power to conduct this war using the incidents of war. In other words, we believe there's a constitutional power granted to Presidents, as well as, this case, a statutory power. And I'm intending to use that power -- Congress says, go ahead and conduct the war, we're not going to tell you how to do it. And part of winning this war on terror is to understand the nature of the enemy and to find out where they are so we can protect the American people.
There's going to be -- there will be a constitution -- there will be a legal debate about whether or not I have the authority to do this; I'm absolutely convinced I do. Our Attorney General has been out describing why. And I'm going to continue using my authority. That's what the American people expect. Yes, Mark.
Q Stepping back from the immediate NSA debate that's going on right now, Vice President Cheney recently said that the White House is reasserting its executive power. Is the NSA program part of that effort? And what do you say to Democrats who charge that you are abusing your constitutional authority?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say that there has been a historical debate between the executive branch and the legislative branch as to who's got what power. And I don't view it as a contest with the legislative branch. Maybe they view it as a contest with the executive; I just don't. I view it -- I view the decisions I've made, particularly when it comes to national security, as necessary decisions to protect the American people. That's how -- that's the lens on which I analyze things, Jonathan. And I understand we're at war with an enemy that wants to hit us again. Osama bin Laden made that clear the other day, and I take his words very seriously. And I also take my responsibility to protect the American people very seriously. And so we're going to do what is necessary, within the Constitution and within the law, and at the same time guaranteeing people's civil liberties, to protect the people. And that's how I look at this debate.
Now, there's all kinds of people taking a step back and saying well, this is this, this is that. And I recognize throughout history, people -- there have been a debate about legislative power and executive power. Part of the questions asked here today kind of reflect that debate. I'm going to leave that to the lawyers.
I believe I've been hired by the people to do my job, and that's to protect the people, and that's what I'm going to do, mindful of my authorities within the Constitution, mindful of our need to make sure that we stay within the law, and mindful of the need to protect the civil liberties of the people.
Q Mr. President, though -- this is a direct follow up to that -- the FISA law was implemented in 1978 in part because of revelations that the National Security Agency was spying domestically. What is wrong with that law if you feel you have to circumvent it and, as you just admitted, expand presidential power?
THE PRESIDENT: May I -- if I might, you said that I have to circumvent it. There -- wait a minute. That's a -- there's something -- it's like saying, you know, you're breaking the law. I'm not. See, that's what you've got to understand. I am upholding my duty, and at the same time, doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. That's just very important for you to understand.
Secondly, the FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this discussion in 2006. It's a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It's an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also -- and we -- look -- I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do. And so that's why I made the decision I made.
And you know, "circumventing" is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it, because I believe what I'm doing is legally right. Bob.
Q There are going to be hearings on Capitol Hill starting February 6th regarding --
THE PRESIDENT: Regarding that point, right. And Al Gonzales has recently given a speech laying out the administrative position, and I'm sure you analyzed it carefully.
Okay, so now the Prez is using Scotty's "I reject that" mechanism to obfuscate the point, but only lightly - he says, "I rrefuse to accept it," becuase he belives i't right. Well, shit, if the President beleives killing Iraqis on a 1 to 15 ratio (GIs to Iraqi Civilians Killed) is right, then it must be.