Thursday, January 05, 2006

Your Call May Be Monitored Because We Feel Like It

We've pretty much been staying out of the whole presidential peekaboo brouhaha because there are certain areas of our private life we would prefer the NSA not explore (in our defense, she looked much older) but, at the risk of having our file reactivated by the FBI, this gave us pause for thought. Not something we often pause for around here.

President Bush has strongly defended his domestic spying program. "This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America and, I repeat, limited," Bush told reporters.

When asked who it was 'limited' to he replied "Democrats mostly, but some movie stars. Oh, and that Sheehan woman. I think most Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy's thinking."

The New York Times reported last month that the National Security Agency had been conducting warrantless surveillance since 2002. Bush acknowledged that he had authorized the NSA program. "You think we knew Democratic strategy by accident?" asked White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

"The fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to my ability to do what I want," Bush said before returning to Washington from a six week holiday break at his Texas ranch. "People who keep bringing up the law and all that stuff are soft on terrorism," he continued. "You think the terrorists got a warrant before they blew up the World Trade Center? We need to be just like them."

Bush stressed that the surveillance involved telephone calls from "a few numbers" by people associated with the Sierra Club. When asked if any useful information ahd been obtained from the wiretaps, the president replied that the surveillance "has allowed us to determine that pepperoni is the most popular topping for pizza."

The White House later clarified Bush's remarks, saying he meant to say only calls that related to issues of potential terrorism were being monitored. "We're just trying to protect the pepperoni supply," said McClellan.

The president denied lying during a 2004 appearance in support of the Patriot Act when he said, "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, a wiretap requires a court order."

"What I meant to say was it requires a court order unless I say it doesn't," Bush said. "Dick calls it executive privilege."

Bush didn't answer a reporter's question about whether he was aware of any resistance to the program at high levels of his administration. "I'll comment on that after Dick's had a chance to "caucus" with those people," he said.

The Times reported Sunday that a top Justice Department official objected to aspects of the NSA program and would not sign off on its continued use as required by the administration's guidelines.

Neither James B. Comey, a top deputy to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft nor Ashcroft could comment on the meeting.

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