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Kristol: President Bush should be "Very Aggressive" in Challenging NSA Surveillance Critics

11:24 AM, Jan 24, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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William Kristol made the following remarks on Fox News' "The Big Story" yesterday:

"I think he's [President Bush} got the authority and I think he has an extremely strong legal case....

Al Qaeda released an audio of bin Laden Friday saying operations were being planned against us here in the United States. What the president is doing is authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on communications from al Qaeda terrorists abroad into the United States.

Do his critics believe he shouldn't do that? Is that really their position? Is that their serious position? He should challenge them on that. I think he has an extremely strong position and should be very aggressive in not only defending it but in challenging the critics. What is it that they would have him do? Ignore the communications into the United States?

...Is the critics' position that we should not be intercepting these calls and that judges should be second-guessing career officials at the National Security Agency as to which calls they should intercept? Is the critics' position that we should have public discussions in Congress about our sources and methods about the ways in which we know what calls to intercept?

What exactly do the critics want? I think the president needs to stick it to the critics a little bit and say what is it that you would have me do as president of the United States when we have been attacked in the United States and when al Qaeda is planning further attacks?

...I suppose you could right a law that says the president has a blank check, as he does overseas. No one doubts the president can intercept communications between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the question is what about communications from Afghanistan into the United States?

Incidentally, when there are communications within the United States the president does go to the courts. This administration has gone to the FISA court more than any previous administration, because when they find out the al Qaeda guys are calling a certain number in the U.S., then they go to the court and say we need to tap this phone here in the U.S.

I don't even know what kind of legislation you can write to authorize the variety of things the president has to do in terms of intercepting overseas calls coming into the United States. But I suppose maybe he should challenge Congress. Write legislation, give me this authority. I don't think I need it. But if it makes you feel better to give me the authority, give me the authority. What is most starting about this is here we have General Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, appointed to that position by President Clinton, a career military man, career lawyers at the National Security Agency, no political appointees there, all of them testifying there have been no abuses.

This is being done carefully and legally and has saved lives and prevented terror plots here in the United States. Let the critics explain, do they disbelieve General Hayden. Do they think he's a Republican political hack?

The president really needs to call this criticism for what it is which is really cheap and irresponsible criticism of an important part of our national security."

He also called the program critical to the war on terror in a time when the tools of surveillance were changing rapidly. "It is my belief," he said, "that had this program been in place before 9/11, it is my judgment that it would identified some of the Al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and would have identified them as such."

"This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with Al Qaeda."