"Wiretaps require a Court Order" President Bush, 2004
President Bush speaking in Buffalo on the Patriot Act
On April 20, 2004, in Buffalo, he stated:
"So the first thing I want you to think about is, when you hear Patriot Act, is that we changed the law and the bureaucratic mind-set to allow for the sharing of information. It's vital. And others will describe what that means.If you prefer, you can listen to the entire speech and hear the President express this sentiment himself.
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
But a roving wiretap means -- it was primarily used for drug lords. A guy, a pretty intelligence drug lord would have a phone, and in old days they could just get a tap on that phone. So guess what he'd do? He'd get him another phone, particularly with the advent of the cell phones. And so he'd start changing cell phones, which made it hard for our DEA types to listen, to run down these guys polluting our streets. And that changed, the law changed on -- roving wiretaps were available for chasing down drug lords. They weren't available for chasing down terrorists, see? And that didn't make any sense in the post-9/11 era. If we couldn't use a tool that we're using against mobsters on terrorists, something needed to happen.
The Patriot Act changed that. So with court order, law enforcement officials can now use what's called roving wiretaps, which will prevent a terrorist from switching cell phones in order to get a message out to one of his buddies."
White House Video on Wiretaps and a Court Order
On December 19, 2005, President Bush pointed out that he had authorized warrantless wiretaps and would continue to do so in the future.
WASHINGTON Dec 19, 2005 — President Bush brushed aside criticism over his decision to spy on suspected terrorists without court warrants Monday and said he will keep it up "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens."And today things got more confusing.
"As president of the United States and commander in chief I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country," he said at a year-end White House news conference.
Bush denied that his Buffalo statement showed some kind of inconsistency. That he previously had stated (after authorizing the NSA warrantless wiretapping) that a warrant was needed.
Asked about that today, Mr. Bush said: "I was talking about roving wiretaps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the N.S.A. program.But in the Buffalo statement, Bush himself said that roving wiretaps would be allowed with court orders. The President is having a harder and harder time talking himself out of this mess.
"The N.S.A. program is a necessary program. I was elected to protect the American people from harm. And on Sept. 11, 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."
Mr. Bush also emphasized that the program was "limited" in nature and designed to intercept communications from known associates of Al Qaeda to the United States. He said several times that the eavesdropping was "limited to calls from outside the United States to calls within the United States."
That assertion is at odds with press accounts and the public statements of his senior aides, who say that the authorization for the program requires that one end of a communication - either incoming or outgoing - be outside the United States. The White House, clarifying the president's remarks after his appearance, said later that either end of the communication can in fact be outside the United States.
Nobody is above the law in America.
We don't have a King or a Queen.
We have a democracy.
As Senator John Kerry has stated:
“Repeated statements by the President and the Vice President that wiretapping required a court order no doubt were designed to leave the impression with Americans that the government wasn’t authorizing the wiretapping of our own citizens without any warrant or oversight by a court. Now Americans know the truth, and they are owed a full explanation. Congress needs a full accounting and real oversight, not executive power run amok without checks and balances and Congress kept in the dark. Americans deserve an honest debate, not more misleading talk, not another public relations offensive when our security and our constitutional rights hang in the balance.”Thank you Senator Kerry. America deserves better. Our nation is at risk. Not from whistle-blowers who point out the abuse of power. But from an Administration that defines law as it sees fit. That spreads propaganda into the news media, that authorizes wiretaps on American citizens without warrants violating Constitutional protections, that encourages torture of enemy combatants violating the Geneva Conventions, and that even wages war based on lies and distortion.
It is time for this Administration to be held accountable.