During a short press conference at Camp David today, President Bush responded to a recent ruling that a NSA domestic surveillance program was unconstitutional.
Bush said that he "strongly disagreed" with the decision and implied that the judge's decision would prevent investigators from listening to some terrorist communications. After condemning the judge's ruling, the president said, "if Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know why they're calling."
David Ignatius of The Washington Post provided analysis of the president's remarks. Ignatius noticed that Bush became "agitated" when responding to the judge's ruling. Ignatius also feared that the president's attempts to politicize the issue would have the long term effect of weakening the surveillance tools that his administration fighting to protect.
Ignatius explained, "He's almost daring people to stand up against [the ruling]... my only concern is that the more politicized this issue becomes, the less likely it is that we will have the firm legal framework for these necessary surveillance programs that will make them work over the long run."
A transcript follows the video below.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in a Federal ruling yesterday that declared your "terrorists surveillance program" unconstitutional, the judge wrote that it was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control. How do you respond, sir, to opponents who say that this ruling is really the first nail in the coffin of your administration's legal strategy in the war on terror?
BUSH: I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live. You might remember, last week, working with the people in Great Britain, we disabled a plot -- people trying to come and kill -- kill people. The... this country of ours is at war and we must give those who are... whose responsibility it is to protect the United States, the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war. The judge's decision was a... I strongly disagree with that decision. Strongly disagree. That's why I've instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately and I believe out appeals will be upheld. We... I made my position clear about this war on terror and I... by the way, the enemy made their position clear, yet again, when they... when we are able to stop them. And the American people expect us to protect them and, therefore, I put this program in place. We believe, strongly believe, it's Constitutional. And if Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know why they're calling. And, so, I made my position clear. It will be interesting to see what other policy makers... how other policy makers react. Listen, thank y'all very much.
GIBSON: He kind of put a challenge out to other policy makers. Can you explain what to make of that because this is kind of beyond the policy makers realm. Isn't it in the realm of the judiciary?
IGNATIUS: It's now in the courts. It's a little bit unusual for the president to speak so strongly on a matter that's under judicial review now and is being appealed to an appellate court and will, most certainly, go to the Supreme Court. I thought it was striking, John, that the president was kind of careful in his comments. Restrained talking about Hezbollah, even. Even sort of -- talking about diplomacy -- speaking slowly. He really got agitated when he was talking about the NSA issue. "I strongly disagree with the judge's views." And, as you say, sounding, almost, a political appeal. He thinks this "terrorist surveillance program", as [unintelligible] calls it, is popular politically. The American people want it. He's almost daring people to stand up against it and [not] support the Federal district court judge who ruled against it here. You know, my only concern is that the more politicized this issue becomes, the less likely it is that we will have the firm legal framework for these necessary surveillance programs that will make them work over the long run. It's not an issue for six months or a year. It's a issue... It's a long war."