In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorised the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qa'ida and related terrorist organisations. This is a highly classified programme that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies.
Last Friday, the existence of this secret programme was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organisations. As a result, our enemies have learnt information they should not have. The unauthorised disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country.
As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September 11 attacks. And the commission criticised our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. The authorisation I gave the National Security Agency helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. And the activities conducted under this authorisation have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.
I have reauthorised this programme more than 30 times since the September 11 attacks and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qa'ida and related groups. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorisation and the activities conducted under it.
This authorisation is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do so long as I'm the President of the United States.