Wow. Just wow. Knowing what we already know today about Chimpy’s extra-consitutional snooping, that it was widespread (18,000 wiretapping subjects!), involved all varieties of phone calls (foreign to domestic, domestic to foreign, and perhaps domestic to domestic), and was only discussed with a few members of Congress (and at least one of them objected in writing) it’s stunning to see the Chimp in Chief lie like this.
With that, I’ll be glad to answer a couple of questions. Toby. Or, Deb. You are Deb, right?
Q Yes, sir. Mr. President, were you aware of any resistance to the launching of the NSA program at high levels of your administration, and if so, how did that influence your decision to approve it?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, the NSA program is an important program in protecting America. We’re at war, and as Commander-in-Chief, I’ve got to use the resources at my disposal, within the law, to protect the American people. And that’s what we’re doing.
The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers, called from the outside of the United States and of known al Qaeda or affiliate people. In other words, the enemy is calling somebody and we want to know who they’re calling and why. And that seems to make sense to me, as the Commander-in-Chief, if my job is to protect the American people.
This program has been reviewed, constantly reviewed, by people throughout my administration. And it still is reviewed. It has got — not only has it been reviewed by Justice Department officials, it’s been reviewed by members of the United States Congress. It’s a vital, necessary program.
Now, some say, well, maybe this isn’t a war; maybe this is just a law enforcement operation. I strongly disagree. We’re at war with an enemy that wants to hurt us again, and the American people expect the Commander-in-Chief to protect them, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
Q In 2004, when you were doing an event about the Patriot Act, in your remarks you had said that any wiretapping required a court order, and that nothing had changed. Given that we now know you had prior approval for this NSA program, were you in any way misleading?
THE PRESIDENT: I was talking about roving wire taps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the NSA program. [He believes he was talking about roving wiretaps, he doesn;t know?] The NSA program is a necessary program. I was elected to protect the American people from harm. And on September the 11th, 2001, our nation was attacked. And after that day, I vowed to use all the resources at my disposal, within the law, to protect the American people, which is what I have been doing, and will continue to do. And the fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States.
There’s an enemy out there. They read newspapers, they listen to what you write, they listen to what you put on the air, and they react. And it seems logical to me that if we know there’s a phone number associated with al Qaeda and/or an al Qaeda affiliate, and they’re making phone calls, it makes sense to find out why. They attacked us before, they will attack us again if they can. And we’re going to do everything we can to stop them.
Q Mr. President, with this program, though, what can you say to those members of the public that are worried about violations of their privacy?
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, I can say that if somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we’d like to know why. In the meantime, this program is conscious of people’s civil liberties, as am I. This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America. And I repeat, limited. And it’s limited to calls from outside the United States to calls within the United States. But they are of known — numbers of known al Qaeda members or affiliates. I think most Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy is thinking. And that’s what we’re doing.
We’re at war with a bunch of cold-blooded killers who will kill on a moment’s notice. And I have a responsibility, obviously, to act within the law, which I am doing. It’s a program that’s been reviewed constantly by Justice Department officials, a program to which the Congress has been briefed, and a program that is, in my judgment, necessary to win this war and to protect the American people.
Over at HuffPo, David Wallechinsky asks just what is it the President wants to hide (while providing a nice run-down of just how cooperative the FISA court has been in the past, and how it baulked at Chimpy’s overreach). It seems obvious to me that he’s hiding a domestic spying program aimed at his political enemies. Otherwise, why bother? No one, left or right, has a problem with him listening in on al Qaeda. It’s that tap on Joe Wilson’s home number that will get him in trouble.
And as I asked yesterday, why does he keep giving out details about a classified program? Of course, if he is lying then he may not be relvealing anything about the actual program, but wouldn’t a simple “no comment” be prudent here?