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President Bush Discusses Global War on Terror at Kansas State University
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas

January 23, 2006


Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for inviting me here to give the Landon Lecture. For those students who are here, I want you to know I can remember what it was like to sit through lectures. (Laughter.) I didn't particularly like it then. (Laughter.) Some will take a little different approach. I'm here to tell you how I see the world and how I've made some of the decisions I've made and why I made them.

Before I get there, I want to thank the introducer. So he's on Air Force One. He says, that's a cute-looking blue tie you have. (Laughter.) But I strongly suggest, Mr. President -- (laughter and applause.) I said, I don't know, Senator, if I can take it; I'm worried about all those lobby laws -- or the lack of them. (Laughter.) He said, fine, I'll just loan it to you. I said, well, now that you're helping me dress, you got any hints on how I ought to do my hair? (Laughter and applause.)

Pat Roberts is a good man. He's got a great sense of humor. He loves the people of Kansas and he loves Kansas State and I'm proud to be with him on this stage. (Applause.) And I'm proud to be here, as well, with the other United States Senator, Senator Sam Brownback. (Applause.) Former president of the Kansas State student body. (Applause.)

I want to thank the Governor. Governor Sebelius, thanks for putting up with me, Roberts and Brownback as we drove from the airport to here. One hour with the three of us -- it required a lot of patience. (Laughter.) I'm proud the Governor came with us, and I want to thank you. I want to thank Congressman Jim Ryun, right from this district. I appreciate you being here, Congressman. (Applause.) I'm not interested in jogging with you. (Laughter.)

I also thank Congressman Dennis Moore and Congressman Jerry Moran, both fine members of the United Stated Congress from the state of Kansas. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)

I appreciate President Wefald for having me come. I know Laura was his first choice. (Laughter.) That's why he's the head of such a fine institution; he's got good judgment. (Laughter.) By the way, she sends her best. I married really well. (Applause.)

And I want to thank Charles Reagan and Edward Seaton. Charles is the chairman of the Landon Lecture Series. And Edward is the head of the patrons. He said to me, he said, I so appreciate you believing in free speech; thanks for giving a free one. (Laughter and applause.)

I want to thank Tom Herald, who is the faculty senate president. I want to thank all the faculty members who are here. Thanks for teaching. It's such a noble profession and I appreciate you lending your expertise to help youngsters learn what is possible and how to think, and how to be creative. And I want to thank the president of the student body, Michael Burns, for being here, as well. (Applause.)

I appreciate the students being here. I particularly want to thank those who've come from the Last Chance Bar. (Laughter and applause.) Better than watching daytime TV I guess. (Laughter.) I appreciate your interest in your country; looking forward to sharing some thoughts with you, and then I'll answer some questions.

Before I get there, I do want to pay tribute to our wonderful men and women in uniform. Thank you for serving our country. (Applause.)

You know, really one of the interesting things about being the President is to invite my guys, buddies I grew up with from Texas, to the White House. It's really neat to see how they react to the majesty of the White House and the Oval Office and the South Lawn, and just the beauty of Washington. And most of them, after they get over the initial shock of seeing the White House, then come to the shock wondering how in the heck I got there. (Laughter.)

But they, oftentimes, they ask me, they say, what's it like, being the President of the United States? And my answer to them is, first, it's a huge honor. But, secondly, if I had to give you a job description, it would be a decision-maker. I make a lot of decisions. I make some that you see that obviously affect people's lives, not only here, but around the world. I make a lot of small ones you never see, but have got consequence. Decision-maker is the job description.

First of all, when you make decisions, you've got to stand on principle. If you're going to make decisions, you've got to know what you believe. I guess the best way to summarize me is I came from Texas and I'm going back to Texas with the exact same values I had when I arrived in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

In order to make good decisions, you've got to rely upon the judgment of people you trust. I'll never forget the first decision I had to make as the President. I wasn't even sworn in yet, and a fellow called me on the phone and he said, what color rug do you want to have in the Oval Office? (Laughter.) You've got to be kidding me, man. (Laughter.) He said, no, what color rug would you like to have in the Oval Office? I said, I don't know. He said, well, it turns out that Presidents -- you've just got to know Presidents design their rugs. I said, well, to be honest with you, I don't know much about designing rugs.

So I called, I delegated -- that's one of the things you do in decision-making. (Laughter.) I said, Laura, how about helping design the rug? (Laughter.) Part of being a decision-maker, though, is you've got to help -- you've got to think strategically. And so I said to her -- she said, what color do you want? I said, make it say this: optimistic person comes here to work every single day. You can't lead the nation, you can't make good decisions unless you're optimistic about the future.

So for the students here, as you take over organizations or head out of college and become involved in your life, you've got to be optimistic about -- if you're going to lead somebody. Imagine somebody saying, follow me, the world is going to be worse. (Laughter.) That's not a very good organizing principle about which to lead people. I'm optimistic about our future, and the reason I am is because I believe so strongly in what America stands for: liberty and freedom and human rights, and the human dignity of every single person. (Applause.)

Sometimes decisions come to your desk unexpectedly. Part of the job of a President is to be able to plan for the worst and hope for the best; and if the worst comes, be able to react to it. On September the 11th, the worst came. We got attacked. We didn't ask for the attack, but it came. I resolved on that day to do everything I can to protect the American people.

You know, a lot of us grew up thinking that oceans would protect us; that if there was a threat overseas, it really didn't concern us because we were safe. That's what history had basically told us -- yes, there was an attack on Pearl Harbor, obviously, but it was a kind of hit-and-run and then we pursued the enemy. A lot of folks -- at least, my age, when I was going to college, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked. And in that we got attacked, I vowed then, like I'm vowing to you today, that I understand my most important priority. My most important job is to protect the security of the American people.

I knew right after September the 11th, though, that the attacks would begin to fade in people's memory. I mean, who wants to constantly go through life thinking that you're going to get hit again? Who wants to kind of re-live those days in your memory? As a matter of fact, I asked the American people to go on about your life. But given the fact that it's human nature to forget, or try to put in the past, put the pain in the past, I want to assure you and our fellow Americans I'm not going to put it in the past. The threat to the United States is forefront in my mind. I knew that at times people would say, you know, it may be an isolated incident, let's just don't worry about it. Well, for me it's not an isolated incident. I understand there is still an enemy which lurks out there.

And so part of my decision-making process, part of it as you see when I begin to protect you, to do my number one priority, rests upon this fact: that there is an enemy which is relentless and desirous to bring harm to the American people, because of what we believe in. See, we're in an ideological struggle. It's very important for the students here to understand that there is an enemy which has an ideology, and they're driven by an ideology. They make decisions based upon their view of the world, which is the exact opposite of our view of the world.

Perhaps the best way to describe their political vision is to remind you what life was like for people living in Afghanistan when the Taliban was running that country with al Qaeda as the parasite. If you were a young girl in that society, you had no chance to get educated. If you spoke out against the view of these folks, their religious view, you could be taken to the public square and whipped. In other words, there was not freedom. There wasn't freedom to worship the way you want to, just like we believe here in the United States of America. You can worship, you can not worship in our country, and you're equally American. You can be a Christian, Jew or Muslim, and you're equally American. It's the greatness of the United States of America which -- (applause) -- which stands in stark contrast to what these ideologues believe.

Their vision of the world is dark and dim. They have got desires to spread a totalitarian empire. How do we know? Because they told us. Mr. Zawahiri, the number two in the al Qaeda network, told the world such. He might not have wanted us to read that particular thing he was sending, but nevertheless we did. And he said that, here's our designs and our desires. In other words, these people have got an ideology, and strategy to implement the ideology. They've got a -- they have no heart, no conscience. They kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective. These folks cannot be appeased. We can't hope that nice words will change their point of view.

And so the decision I made right off the bat is we will find them, and we will hunt them down, and we will bring them to justice before they hurt America again. (Applause.)

But that requires a different kind of response than the old days of nations fighting nations. First of all, I want to step back and just tell you -- I probably -- I hope I say this more than once, but committing U.S. troops into harm's way is the last option of the President. It's the hardest decision a President can make. And so when I'm telling you I made the decision, you all have got to understand, I did not take that decision lightly. I knew the consequences, but I also believed that the consequences of not acting against this enemy would mean I wasn't doing my job of working with others to protect the United States of America. (Applause.)

So we sent our men and women into harm's way -- all volunteers. It is really important for the United States of America to have an all-volunteer Army. The best way to keep people volunteering in the Army is to make sure they got good pay, good training, good equipment and good housing for their loved ones. (Applause.)

But since we're not able to track vast battalions or armadas, we've got to have intelligence, good intelligence, to help us locate the dark corners of the world where these people hide. A lot of the decisions I make, and decisions future Presidents make, will be based upon the capacity of our intelligence services to find the enemy and to understand the intentions of the enemy and to share information with our allies. This is a different kind of struggle and requires the best intelligence possible. That's why we're reevaluating, constantly reevaluating, how best to use our intelligence services to be able to protect the American people.

We've got to be strong in diplomacy. Secretary Rice, who is a great diplomat, she followed another great -- she followed another great diplomat in Colin Powell -- they're constantly working to remind people about the stakes. Just like part of my job is to educate the American people about the threats we face, at a lecture series such as this, our government must constantly remind our friends and allies the nature of the enemy and the stakes that all free countries face. There's a diplomatic effort that's constantly going on.

You can't run your network without money, and so we're working with our friends and allies to seize terrorist assets and choke off their funding sources. In other words, what I'm telling you is, we're using all assets at our disposal to protect you in a different kind of war. In order to make the right decision about how to win this war, it's important to understand the nature of the enemy and to take the enemy's word seriously and to understand their lethality and not let the kind of lull in the action lull us to sleep.

Secondly, right after they attacked us, I laid out a doctrine, and it said, if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorists. The reason I said that is because I understand that a terrorist network can sometimes burrow in society and can sometimes find safe haven from which to plot and plan. The perfect example of that was Afghanistan. For those of you who didn't pay much attention to the initial stages of this war, it became apparent to the world that Afghanistan became a safe haven. You'll hear stories about people that went into Afghanistan to be trained -- trained as to how to brutally kill people, trained in different methodologies, trained in how to communicate.

So in other words, the enemy was able to burrow in, and felt safe and confident and secure. And I understood in this different kind of war that we had to make it clear to any country that if they harbored a terrorist, they would be held to account. And when the American President speaks, it's really important for those words to mean something. And so when I said to the Taliban, get rid of al Qaeda, and they didn't, I made the difficult decision to commit our troops, to uphold the doctrine that if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist. And our kids went in, men and women alike, and liberated a country from the clutches of the barbaric regime, the Taliban.

And today, today in Afghanistan, think about what has happened in a brief period of time -- today in Afghanistan there is a fledgling democracy. Al Qaeda no longer has run of the country; the Taliban is routed; there's an elected parliament and a president dedicated to democratic institutions. (Applause.)

The doctrine still stands: If you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorists who commit murder.

Thirdly --and this is very important for the students to understand, and others -- because oceans no longer protect us, the United States of America must confront threats before they cause us harm. In other words, in the old days we could see a threat and say, well, maybe it will cause harm, maybe it won't. Those days changed, as far as I'm concerned. Threats must be taken seriously now, because geography doesn't protect us and there's an enemy that still lurks. And so early in my first term, I looked at the world and saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. And let me tell you why I saw the threat.

First of all, there was an immediate threat because he was shooting at our airplanes. There was what's called no-fly zones; that meant the Iraqis couldn't fly in the zones, and we were patrolling with British pilots. And he was firing at us, which was a threat -- a threat to the life and limb of the troops to whom I'm the Commander-in-Chief. He was a state sponsor of terror. In other words, the government had declared, you are a state sponsor of terror. And, remember, we're dealing with terrorist networks that would like to do us harm.

There's a reason why he was declared a state sponsor of terror -- because he was sponsoring terror. He had used weapons of mass destruction. And the biggest threat that this President, and future Presidents, must worry about is weapons of mass destruction getting in the hands of a terrorist network that would like to do us harm. That is the biggest threat we face. Airplanes were horrible; the attacks of aircraft were horrible. But the damage done could be multiplied if weapons of mass destruction were in the hands of these people.

The world thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It wasn't just me or my administration. Our predecessor thought he had weapons of mass destruction. And there's a logical reason why -- the data showed that he likely had weapons of mass destruction, and he'd use them. I told you, the last option for a President is to send troops into combat, and I was hoping that we could solve the issue, the threat, the threat to the United States by diplomatic means.

So I went to the United Nations. Secretary Powell carried our message to the United Nations. It said --- see, now, I actually gave a speech to the United Nations, you might remember, and I said to them, basically, how many resolutions is it going to take before this threat will take us seriously? I mean, we passed, I don't know, 14, 15 different resolutions. That's a lot of resolutions. Pretty soon, if you pass that many resolutions, somebody is going to say, well, they may not mean anything. I want this body to be effective. It's important for the world, when it speaks, that people listen.

And so we passed another resolution that said that Saddam is in -- and it unanimously passed, and the reason why is because the world thought he was a danger. It said: disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences. I'm the kind of fellow, when I -- when we say something, I mean it, like I told you before. And I meant it.

And so Saddam Hussein was given a choice. He chose war. And so we moved and he was removed from power. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, America is safer for it, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)

A lot of people, I understand, disagreed with that decision, and that's what democracy is all about, that's what we believe in. We believe you can disagree. There's a custom in our country for people to express themselves, and it's good. It's what makes us a great country, that people can stand up and tell people what's on their mind. And we're going to keep it that way. It's very important for those who didn't agree with the decision, though, to understand the consequences of success in Iraq. It's really important we succeed, for a lot of reasons.

And the definition of success, by the way, is for there to be a country where the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten the democracy, and where Iraqi security forces can provide for the security of their people, and where Iraq is not a safe haven from which the terrorists -- al Qaeda and its affiliates -- can plot attacks against America.

We got a strategy, and I'm going to keep talking about the strategy -- it will yield a victory. And the strategy is political security and economic in nature. In economic, we're going to help them rebuild their country, help secure their oil supply so they'll have cash flow in order to invest in their people.

On the political front, you've seen it -- you've seen what happened in one year's time. It's just amazing, I think. I guess, we take it for granted -- some of us do. I don't. The fact that people have gone from living under the clutches of a tyrant who ordered the murder of thousands of his own citizens, to a society in which people last year started voting -- (applause) -- voting for an interim government, voting for a constitution, and then voting for a permanent government under the new constitution. The government is now -- they're beginning to form.

In other words, you're seeing a lot of sharp elbows, probably kind of like American politics seem to some people, a lot of throwing of sharp elbows. You didn't see a lot of elbows, political elbows being thrown under the tyrant, did you? That's because tyrants don't allow for the political process to evolve. But we're watching the political process evolve, made complicated by the fact that the terrorists still want to cause destruction and death as this government is forming to try to stop it.

We got to step back and ask why. Why would they want to stop democracy? And the answer, because democracy stands for the exact opposite of their vision. Liberty is not their credo. And they understand a defeat to their ideology by the establishment of a free Iraq will be a devastating blow for their vision.

And so the Iraqis are showing incredible courage. When somebody says, if you vote, I'm going to get you, sometimes people maybe say, well, maybe I don't want to vote. Eleven million or so Iraqis went to the polls in defiance of these killers. (Applause.) It's a magical moment in the history of liberty.

And then on the security front, our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. Look, we want the Iraqis to be prepared to take the fight to the enemy. Let me talk about the enemy real quick in Iraq. There are what we call "rejectionists." These are Sunnis that kind of like the fact that they -- even though a minority inside the country -- had the upper hand for a long period of time with Saddam. And they're worried about whether or not a constitution that says it will protect minority rights actually will protect minority rights. But the good news is, more and more Sunnis started to vote. And if you watch the news, they're beginning to negotiate, they're beginning to see a better way. In other words, the political process is beginning to marginalize the remaining elements of those who are trying to stop the progress.

One of those elements is Saddamists. These are the thugs that kind of control the country. They loved power; they don't want to give it up. And they'd like to return to the good old days, which isn't going to happen.

And the other group of course, is the al Qaeda types, Mr. Zarqawi, who wants us to leave Iraq. They want us to get out of Iraq so Iraq can be a safe haven. It is their stated objective: Don't worry, take your time, keep killing the innocent because America will lose its will. That's what the enemy has said. That's their words.

The way to defeat the enemy is for the political process to marginalize the rejectionists, and for us to train the Iraqi forces so they can find the few that want to dash the hopes of the many, and that's what we're doing.

Our strategy is twofold: We're on the hunt for the terrorists, and we're training Iraqis. And we're making decent progress. There are more and more Iraqi units in the fight. There's more and more country being turned over to the Iraqis. We got a lot of bases around Iraq, and more of those bases are being given to the Iraqi troops.

This is the year that we'll not only continue to focus on the troops, we'll continue to train Iraqi police. We've seen some problems about what it means to have lived in a society where people want to seek revenge. In other words, they use their police -- status as a police person to take it out on others because of past grievances. That's not acceptable to the United States of America. And it's not acceptable to most Iraqis, either.

And so part of the training for police is not only to give them the capacity to handle the enemy, but to make sure they understand human rights and ethics involved with police work. And so that's what you'll be seeing. You're going to see more Iraqi troops in the fight, and more police providing security. And as a result, our commanders on the ground informed me that they thought we could reduce our troop level from the 168,000 that were there -- 165,000, more or less, that were there for the election -- below 138,000.

Now, I want to emphasize something to you, you heard me say, "our commanders on the ground said," you see, sometimes in the political process people feel beholden to polls and focus groups. You don't have to worry about me. I'm going to be listening to the people that know what they're talking about, and that's the commanders on the ground in Iraq. (Applause.) They'll make the decisions. They will give the advice. Conditions on the ground will dictate our force levels over the next year, but the strategy is what I said it is: We'll stay on the offense, and we'll give these brave Iraqis the skills and training necessary to defend their own democracy.

Look, this enemy cannot beat us. They cannot defeat us militarily. There's no chance. The one weapon they have, which is a lethal weapon, is the willingness to kill people. I remember the story -- and it just broke my heart to think about the young soldier that was giving candy to a kid, and they set off the car bomb next to the kids. I mean, it's just -- I cannot describe to you how brutal these people are. And they understand that their scenes will get on TV. And I don't know if they can adequately understand the compassion of the American people. But we're compassionate.

I told you one of the great beliefs of our country is every life matters, every person counts -- whether it be a child here in America, or a child in Iraq. And they understand. And so part of my decision-making process is to understand the strength of the enemy -- the only strength they have -- and continue to remind the people that is their only strength, and the only way we can lose is if we lose our nerve and our will. The American people are resolute. They are strong. And we're not going to lose our will to these thugs and murderers. (Applause.)

In there long-term -- in the short-term, we'll stay on the offense; in the long-term, the way to defeat these people is to spread liberty. As you study history, I want you to watch the effects of freedom around the world. One of my favorite ways to describe my belief in the capacity of freedom to help achieve peace -- not only security for the American people, but peace -- is to give people the example of my dad and me, in terms of Japan.

My dad was an 18-year-old kid and went to fight the Japanese. I promise you, a lot of folks here, relatives, did the same thing. They were called into action because the enemy had attacked us. They were the sworn enemy of the United States of America. It was a brutal war against the Japanese. Took a lot of lives -- Japanese lives and American lives -- to win that war. And, today, like my recent trip to the Far East, I sit down with Prime Minister Koizumi, who is the Japanese Prime Minister, and talk about the peace. Now, think about that. I particularly want the students to think about what took place when 18-year-old President 41 was fighting the Japanese, and 59-year-old 43 -- that would be me -- is talking to the Prime Minister of the former enemy about peace. And you know what took place? A Japanese-style democracy came to be.

History has shown that democracies yield the peace. Europe is free, whole, and at peace because the nations are democratic. That wasn't always the case, obviously, in the 1900s. Two major wars were fought where a lot of Americans died, and yet systems and forms of government changed. And now Europe is completely different, in terms of security and peace. The Far East -- I just mentioned the Japanese example. And that's what the enemy understands, and that's why they're so brutal and relentless. They understand the march of peace will be contagious. Part of my decision-making process is my firm belief in the natural rights of men and women; my belief that deep in everybody's soul is the desire to live free. I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe the Almighty's great gift to each man and woman in this world is the desire to be free. This isn't America's gift to the world, it is a universal gift to the world, and people want to be free. (Applause.)

And if you believe that, and if you believe freedom yields the peace, it's important for the United States of America, with friends, to lead the cause of liberty. I'm not saying to any country, you must have a democracy that looks like America. I am saying, free your people, understand that liberty is universal, and help lay that foundation of peace for generations to come. Some day an American President will be sitting down with elected leaders from a country like Iraq talking about how to keep the peace. This generation is rising to the challenge. We're looking at history, we understand our values, and we're laying that foundation of peace for generations to come. (Applause.)

We've also got to be diligent here at home. I'm getting ready to answer some questions. Laura said, whatever you do, don't get too windy. (Laughter.)

We've created the Department of Homeland Security. We reorganized our intelligence services. I want you to know that every morning, I meet with the Director of National Intelligence or his Deputy, sometimes with the head of the CIA, and always with a briefer, CIA briefer that comes and gives me the latest intelligence and the analysis of intelligence. That's every morning in the White House, except for Sunday.

And the reason I do is because I told you early that my job is not to be complacent, my job is to be on the lookout -- along with a lot of other people, I want you to know. We've got 800,000 state and first responders that have been trained; security is strong at the airports. I hope they stop taking off the shoes of the elderly. (Laughter.) I must confess, they haven't taken off my shoes lately at the airport. (Laughter.)

We're doing a lot of stuff, but I want to talk about two tools necessary to protect you. First, before September the 11th, our law enforcement and intelligence services weren't able to share information. For example, within the FBI, you had your law enforcement division and your intelligence division -- and for a lot of reasons, if they had information about a potential terrorist, they couldn't share it. That's hard to fathom, but it's the truth. There was a wall built up, and there's a lot of reasons why the wall was built up -- some of it historical, obviously, legal ramifications.

And I didn't think you could ask our front-line officers to defend us if they didn't have all the tools necessary to share intelligence, and to share information -- by the way, tools which have been granted to use in tracking down drug dealers, for example. My attitude was, if it's good enough -- these tools are good enough to find a drug dealer, then they ought to be good enough to protect us from the new threats of the 21st century.

And so the Congress passed what's called the Patriot Act by a huge majority. They saw the threat, and they said, wait a minute, let's make sure that if we ask the administration, and, more importantly, people in the administration to defend us, let's give them the tools necessary to defend us. Interestingly enough, the Patriot Act, some of its provisions are set to expire. I like to remind people the Patriot Act may be set to expire, but the threats to the United States haven't expired. And exactly what has changed, I asked out loud, after the attack of September the 11th and today? Those tools are still needed for our law enforcement officers. I want you to know that this Patriot Act is under constant review, and there has been no documented abuses under the Patriot Act.

In other words, Congress, in its wisdom, when it passed the Act, said, we'll make sure that the civil liberties of the United States are protected as we give the tools to those who are asked to take the fight to the enemy, to protect us. Congress extended this Patriot Act to February 3rd. That's not good enough for the American people, it seems like to me. When they get back there, they need to make sure they extend all aspects of the Patriot Act to protect the American people.

The threat still exists, is my message to members of both political parties. The tools -- if they were important right after September the 11th, they're still important in 2006. The enemy has not gone away. (Applause.)

Let me talk about one other program -- and then I promise to answer questions -- something that you've been reading about in the news lately. It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program. After the enemy attacked us, and after I realized that we were not protected by oceans, I asked people that work for you -- work for me, how best can we use information to protect the American people? You might remember there was hijackers here that had made calls outside the country to somebody else, prior to the September the 11th attacks. And I said, is there anything more we can do within the law, within the Constitution, to protect the American people. And they came back with a program, designed a program that I want to describe to you. And I want people here to clearly understand why I made the decision I made.

First, I made the decision to do the following things because there's an enemy that still wants to harm the American people. What I'm talking about is the intercept of certain communications emanating between somebody inside the United States and outside the United States; and one of the numbers would be reasonably suspected to be an al Qaeda link or affiliate. In other words, we have ways to determine whether or not someone can be an al Qaeda affiliate or al Qaeda. And if they're making a phone call in the United States, it seems like to me we want to know why.

This is a -- I repeat to you, even though you hear words, "domestic spying," these are not phone calls within the United States. It's a phone call of an al Qaeda, known al Qaeda suspect, making a phone call into the United States. I'm mindful of your civil liberties, and so I had all kinds of lawyers review the process. We briefed members of the United States Congress, one of whom was Senator Pat Roberts, about this program. You know, it's amazing, when people say to me, well, he was just breaking the law -- if I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress? (Laughter and applause.)

Federal courts have consistently ruled that a President has authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance against our enemies. Predecessors of mine have used that same constitutional authority. Recently there was a Supreme Court case called the Hamdi case. It ruled the authorization for the use of military force passed by the Congress in 2001 -- in other words, Congress passed this piece of legislation. And the Court ruled, the Supreme Court ruled that it gave the President additional authority to use what it called "the fundamental incidents of waging war" against al Qaeda.

I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means. It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics. It's an -- you've got the power to protect us, but we're not going to tell you how. And one of the ways to protect the American people is to understand the intentions of the enemy. I told you it's a different kind of war with a different kind of enemy. If they're making phone calls into the United States, we need to know why -- to protect you. (Applause.)

And that's the world in which you live. I view it as a chance for an historic opportunity to make this place better for your children and your grandchildren -- "this place" being the world. I'm just confident that if we don't lose our will, and stay strong, and that as that liberty advances, people may look back at this lecture and other speeches by people who profess the same devotion to freedom that I've had, and say, you know, maybe they're just right. Maybe America, that was founded on natural rights of men and women is a ticket for peace. Maybe that kind of view -- that every person matters, that there are such things as human dignity and the basic freedoms that we feel, that becomes a huge catalyst for change for the better.

These troops are defending you with all their might, but at the same time, they're beginning to help change that world by spreading liberty and freedom.

It's such an honor to be the President of the great country that we are during such historic times, and I want to thank you for giving me a chance to describe to you some of the decision-making processes I've used to do my duty to defend the American people. God bless.


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Updated: April 2006