A vital step the President took in the days following 9/11 was to authorise the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications.
The existence of this programme was highly classified, and information about it was improperly provided to the news media, to the clear detriment of our national security. There will now be a spirited debate about whether this programme is necessary and appropriate, and the position of our administration will remain clear and consistent.
Number one, these actions taken are necessary. Number two, these actions are totally appropriate and within the President's authority under the constitution and laws of the country. Number three, this wartime measure is limited in scope to surveillance associated with terrorists; it is carefully conducted; and the information obtained is used strictly for national security purposes. And number four, the civil liberties of the American people are unimpeded by these actions.
Let me dwell on that last point for a minute. I was in Washington in the 1970s, at a time when there was great and legitimate concern about civil liberties and about potential abuses within the executive branch. I had the honour of serving as White House Chief of Staff to President Ford, and that experience shapes my own outlook to this very day.
Serving immediately after a period of turmoil, all of us in the Ford administration worked hard to restore people's confidence in the government. We were adamant about following the law and protecting civil liberties of all Americans, and we did so.
Three decades later, I work for a president who shares those same values. He has made clear from the outset, both publicly and privately, that our duty to uphold the law of the land admits no exceptions in wartime.
The President himself put it best. He said: "We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them."
The American people can be certain that we are upholding those principles.Reuse content