- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

President Bush yesterday strongly defended his administration’s terrorist surveillance program, saying those who oppose it “simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live.”

“This country of ours is at war,” the president told reporters at Camp David, a day after a federal judge in Michigan ruled the program unconstitutional. “We must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war.”

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor struck down the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program, ruling that it infringed on the constitutional rights to privacy and free speech.

“The judge’s decision was a — I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree,” Mr. Bush said of the ruling in the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The president said he instructed the Justice Department to immediately appeal the decision.

The program targets international telephone calls and other electronic communications coming into or going out of the United States in which “one of the parties on the call is a suspected al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist,” the White House said Thursday.

Democrats pounced on the ruling, saying that it proves Mr. Bush has overstepped his authority and is trampling on the Constitution.

“No one is above the law,” said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who lost to Mr. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. “Now we need an honest debate and constructive steps, not another public relations onslaught from an administration that’s good at hiding the truth and spinning the politics and sorely lacking when it comes to making America safe in the world or bringing people together at home.”

The president, speaking to reporters yesterday after meeting with his economic team at the presidential retreat in Maryland, refused to address reports that North Korea may be preparing for an underground test of a nuclear bomb, but said: “If North Korea were to conduct a test, it’s just a constant reminder for people in the neighborhood in particular that North Korea poses a threat and we expect our friends, those sitting around the table with us, to act in such a manner as to help rid the world of the threat.”

He also said that Hezbollah suffered a defeat in its war with Israel.

“The first reaction of course of Hezbollah and its supporters is to declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them,” Mr. Bush said. “Sometimes it takes people a while to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and what don’t. Hezbollah is a force of instability.”

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