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In Their Own Words

Excerpts from the Bush administration's statements on the president's domestic surveillance program.

In December 2005, The New York Times broke the story of the secret National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program authorized by the president. President Bush and top officials described a limited, carefully monitored program that only affected international phone calls by or to suspected Al Qaeda affiliates in the U.S. But the language they used was carefully constructed; many suspected the administration wasn't disclosing what other things the NSA might be doing.

Five months later the suspicions proved correct. USA Today revealed the government had gathered information from most of the nation's major telephone service providers and set up a vast database of customers' call records. And former AT&T employee Mark Klein provided details about his discovery of a huge flow of Internet traffic in several AT&T operations centers that was being regularly diverted to the NSA for data mining.

Here's a rundown of how President Bush, former NSA Director Michael Hayden and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez described the government's activities following the revelations.

 

President Bush

From a Dec. 19, 2005 press conference

President Bush: ... Consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program. And it has been effective in disrupting the enemy, while safeguarding our civil liberties.

This program has targeted those with known links to Al Qaeda. I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as our nation is -- for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens. ...

Reporter's question: ... Why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts?

President Bush: First of all, I -- right after Sept. 11, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That's what the American people want. We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program, because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that's important. We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent.

We use FISA still -- you're referring to the FISA court in your question -- of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect. ...

Reporter's question: If you believe that present law needs to be faster, more agile concerning the surveillance of conversations from someone in the United States to someone outside the country, why, in the four years since 9/11, has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?

President Bush: I appreciate that. First, I want to make clear to the people listening that this program is limited in nature to those that are known Al Qaeda ties and/or affiliates. That's important. So it's a program that's limited, and you brought up something that I want to stress, and that is, is that these calls are not intercepted within the country. They are from outside the country to in the country, or vice versa. So in other words, this is not a -- if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that. ...

Secondly, an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and we take that duty very seriously. ...

Reporter's question: According to FISA's own records, it's received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn't be a concern, and it can be applied retroactively. Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process?

President Bush: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different -- a different era, a different war. So what we're -- people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a -- it requires quick action.

And without revealing the operating details of our program, I just want to assure the American people that, one, I've got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we're guarding your civil liberties. And we're guarding the civil liberties by monitoring the program on a regular basis, by having the folks at NSA, the legal team, as well as the inspector general, monitor the program, and we're briefing Congress. This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties. I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job. ...

Reporter's question: I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a president during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

President Bush: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power." ... There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject.

Reporter's question: What limits do you --

President Bush: I just described limits on this particular program. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.

 

From a May 11, 2006 press statement by President Bush following new revelations about blanket eavesdropping

... Today there are new claims about other ways we are tracking down Al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. I want to make some important points about what the government is doing and what the government is not doing.

First, our intelligence activities strictly target Al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy and we want to know their plans.

Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval.

Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat.

Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to Al Qaeda and their known affiliates.

So far, we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil. As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack, and we will do so within the laws of our country.

 

Gen. Michael Hayden, former NSA director

From a Jan. 23, 2006 address given at the National Press Club

... So now, we come to one additional piece of NSA authorities. These are the activities whose existence the president confirmed several weeks ago. That authorization was based on an intelligence community assessment of a serious and continuing threat to the homeland. The lawfulness of the actual authorization was reviewed by lawyers at the Department of Justice and the White House and was approved by the attorney general.

... Even though I knew the program had been reviewed by the White House and by DOJ, by the Department of Justice, I asked the three most senior and experienced lawyers in NSA: Our enemy in the global war on terrorism doesn't divide the United States from the rest of the world, the global telecommunications system doesn't make that distinction either, our laws do and should; how did these activities square with these facts?

They reported back to me. They supported the lawfulness of this program. Supported, not acquiesced. This was very important to me. A veteran NSA lawyer, one of the three I asked, told me that a correspondent had suggested to him recently that all of the lawyers connected with this program have been very careful from the outset because they knew there would be a day of reckoning. The NSA lawyer replied to him that that had not been the case. NSA had been so careful, he said -- and I'm using his words now here -- NSA had been so careful because in this very focused, limited program, NSA had to ensure that it dealt with privacy interests in an appropriate manner. ...

In early October 2001, I gathered key members of the NSA workforce in our conference room and I introduced our new operational authority to them. With the historic culture of NSA being what it was and is, I had to do this personally. I told them what we were going to do and why. I also told them that we were going to carry out this program and not go one step further. ...

There are no communications more important to the safety of this country than those affiliated with Al Qaeda with one end in the United States. The president's authorization allows us to track this kind of call more comprehensively and more efficiently. The trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant, but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates. ...

Their work is actively overseen by the most intense oversight regime in the history of the National Security Agency. The agency's conduct of this program is thoroughly reviewed by the NSA's general counsel and inspector general. The program has also been reviewed by the Department of Justice for compliance with the president's authorization. Oversight also includes an aggressive training program to ensure that all activities are consistent with the letter and the intent of the authorization and with the preservation of civil liberties.

Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a drift net over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about.

This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with Al Qaeda. We bring to bear all the technology we can to ensure that this is so. And if there were ever an anomaly, and we discovered that there had been an inadvertent intercept of a domestic-to-domestic call, that intercept would be destroyed and not reported. But the incident, what we call inadvertent collection, would be recorded and reported. But that's a normal NSA procedure. It's been our procedure for the last quarter century. And as always, as we always do when dealing with U.S. person information, as I said earlier, U.S. identities are expunged when they're not essential to understanding the intelligence value of any report. Again, that's a normal NSA procedure.

So let me make this clear. When you're talking to your daughter at state college, this program cannot intercept your conversations. And when she takes a semester abroad to complete her Arabic studies, this program will not intercept your communications. ...

As the director, I was the one responsible to ensure that this program was limited in its scope and disciplined in its application. ... This isn't a drift net out there where we're soaking up everyone's communications. We are going after very specific communications that our professional judgment tells us we have reason to believe are those associated with people who want to kill Americans. That's what we're doing.

And I realize the challenge that we have. I mentioned earlier the existential issue that NSA has well before this program, that it's got to be powerful if it's going to protect us, and it's also got to be secretive if it's going to protect us. And that creates a tremendous dilemma. I understand that. ...

This is focused. It's targeted. It's very carefully done. You shouldn't worry. ...

NSA is a foreign intelligence agency, and this is about -- what we've talked about here today is about foreign intelligence. ... If we were to be drilled down on a specific individual to the degree that the judgment was we need all comms [communications], we need domestic to domestic, that's the route we go through the FISA court in order to do that.

 

From his May 18, 2006 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee as Bush's nominee for CIA director

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.): Now, if press reports are true that phone calls of tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything -- but nonetheless the records are maintained in a government database -- would you not agree that if that press report is accurate, that there is at least a privacy concern there whether or not one concludes that security interests outweigh the privacy concerns?

Gen. Hayden: Senator, I mean, from the very beginning we knew that this was a serious issue and that the steps we were taking, although convinced of their lawfulness -- we were taking them in a regime that was different from the regime that existed on 10 September.

I actually told the workforce, not for the special program, but the NSA workforce on the 13th of September ... about free peoples always having to decide to balance their security and their liberties, and that we, for our tradition, have always planted our banner way down here on the end of the spectrum toward security.

And then I told the workforce -- and this has actually been quoted elsewhere -- I told the workforce there are going to be a lot of pressures to push that banner down toward security. And our job at NSA was to keep America free by making Americans feel safe again. So this balance between security and liberty was foremost in our mind.

Sen. Levin: Does that mean your answer to my question is yes?

Gen Hayden: Senator, I understand. There are privacy concerns involved in all of this. There's privacy concerns involved in the routine activities of NSA.

Sen. Levin: Would you say there are privacy concerns involved in this program?

Gen. Hayden: I can certainly understand why someone would be concerned about this.

Sen. Levin: But that's not my question, general. It's a direct question.

Gen. Hayden: Sure.

Sen. Levin: In your judgment, are there privacy...

Gen. Hayden: You want me to say yes or no.

Sen. Levin: I want you to say whatever you believe.

Gen. Hayden: Yes, sir. Here's what I believe. Clearly the privacy of American citizens is a concern, constantly. And it's a concern in this program, it's a concern in everything we've done.

Sen. Levin: That's a little different from the Press Club statement where basically you said the only privacy concern is involved in international phone calls.

Gen. Hayden: No, sir, I don't think it's different. I was very clear in what I said there, I was very careful with my language.

Sen. Levin: Is that the only privacy concern in this program, international phone calls?

Gen. Hayden: Senator, I don't know how to answer your question. I've just answered that there are privacy concerns with everything that we do, of course. We always balance privacy and security, and we do it within the law.

Sen. Levin: The only privacy concerns, though, in this program relates to international phone calls?

Gen. Hayden: Senator, what I was talking about in January at the press club was the program that the president had confirmed. It was the program --

Sen. Levin: That he had confirmed publicly?

Gen. Hayden: Yes, sir, that he confirmed publicly. And I said --

Sen. Levin: Is that the whole program?

Gen. Hayden: Senator, I'm not at liberty to talk about that in open session.

Sen. Levin: I'm not asking you what the program is, I'm just simply saying, is what the president described publicly the whole program?

Gen. Hayden: Senator, all I'm at liberty to say in this session is what I was talking about, and I literally, explicitly said this at the press club, I am talking about the program the president discussed in mid-December.

Sen. Levin: And you're not able to tell us whether what the president described is the whole program?

Gen. Hayden: No, sir, not in open session. I am delighted to go into great detail in closed session.

Sen. Levin: The NSA program that The New York Times on March 14th reported about said that NSA lawyers, while you were the director of the agency, opposed the vice president's efforts to authorize the NSA to, quote, "intercept purely domestic telephone calls." Is that story accurate?

Gen. Hayden: I could recognize a thin vein of my experience inside the story, but I would not characterize how you described the Times story as being accurate. I can give you a few more notes on that, senator.

Sen. Levin: But were there differences between the NSA and the vice president's office about what the desirable scope of this program was?

Gen. Hayden: No, sir. There were discussions about what we could do. Our intent all along, in my discussions, was to do what it is the program does as described, one end of these calls always being foreign.

And as we went forward, we attempted to make it very clear that that's all we were doing and that's all we were authorized to do. ...

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): When it comes to values, credibility is at the top of my list. Now, general, having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility. And let me be specific.

On the wiretapping program in 2001, you were told by the president's lawyers that you had authority to listen to Americans' phone calls. But a year later, in 2002, you testified that you had no authority to listen to Americans' phone calls in the United States unless you had enough evidence for a warrant. But you have since admitted you were wiretapping Americans.

Let me give you another example. After you admitted you were wiretapping Americans, you said on six separate occasions the program was limited to domestic-to-international calls. Now the press is reporting that the NSA has amassed this huge database -- that we've been discussing today -- of domestic calls.

So with all due respect, general, I can't tell now if you've simply said one thing and done another, or whether you have just parsed your words like a lawyer to intentionally mislead the public.

What's to say that if you're confirmed to head the CIA we won't go through exactly this kind of drill with you over there?

Gen. Hayden: Well, senator, you're going to have to make a judgment on my character. Let me talk a little bit about the incidents that you brought up.

The first one, I believe, is testimony in front of the combined HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence], the joint inquiry commission on the attacks of 9/11. And in my prepared remarks, I was trying to be very careful because we were talking not in closed session in front of the whole committee, but in front of the whole committee in totally open session.

I believe -- and I haven't looked at those remarks for a couple of months now -- I believe I began them by saying that I had been forthcoming in closed sessions with the committee.

... If anyone in the U.S. government should be empathetic to the dilemma of someone in the position I was in, it should be members of this committee who have classified knowledge floating around their left and right lobes every time they go out to make a public statement.

You cannot avoid in your responsibilities talking about Iran, or talking about Iraq, or talking about terrorist surveillance. But you have classified knowledge. And your challenge and your responsibility is to give your audience at that moment the fullest, most complete, most honest rendition you can give them, knowing that you are prevented by law from telling them everything you know.

That's what I did while I was speaking in front of the National Press Club. I chose my words very carefully because I knew that some day I would be having this conversations.

I chose my words very carefully because I wanted to be honest with the people I was addressing. And it wasn't that handful of folks downtown. It was looking into the cameras and talking to the American people.

I bounded my remarks by the program that the president has described in his December radio address. It was the program that was being publicly discussed.

And the key points in my remarks -- I pointedly and consciously down-shifted the language I was using.

When I was talking about a drift net over Lackawanna or Fremont or other cities, I switched from the word "communications" to the much more specific and unarguably accurate "conversations."

And I went on in the speech and later in my question-and-answer period to say: We do not use the content of communications to decide which communications we want to study the content of. In other words, when we looked at the content of a communication, everything between "hello" and "goodbye," we had already established a probable cause standard -- to a probable cause standard, that we had reason to believe that that communication, one or both of those communicants were associated with Al Qaeda.

Senator, I was as full and open as I possibly could be. In addition, my natural instincts, which I think all of you have seen, is to be as full and open as law and policy allow when I'm talking to you as well. Anyone who's gotten a briefing on the terrorist surveillance program from me -- and up until yesterday that was everybody who had ever gotten a briefing on the terrorist surveillance program -- I would be shocked if they thought I was hiding anything.

There was only one purpose in my briefing, and that was to make sure that everyone who was getting that briefing fully understood what NSA was doing. ...

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): Now, the distinguished senator from Oregon said that you admitted you were wiretapping Americans. That's a pretty broad statement.

Gen. Hayden: Yes, sir.

Sen. Hatch: It certainly isn't true.

Gen. Hayden: Sir, we were intercepting the international calls entering or exiting the United States which we had reason to believe were associated with Al Qaeda, is how I would describe it. ...

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.): Senator Bond asked you whether, under the warrantless surveillance program, any Americans had been targeted who were not associated with Al Qaeda. And you replied only that you didn't see how that could occur within the NSA's culture.

The question remains: Has it happened?

Gen. Hayden: In each case, when NSA has targeted a number under this program, there has been a probable cause standard met, in the judgment of our analysis and those who oversee them, that there is reason to believe -- a reasonable person with all the facts available to him or her at the time has cause to believe that this communicant is associated with Al Qaeda.

Sen. Feingold: But that's not my question. ... It's whether it's ever happened that any Americans have been targeted who weren't associated with Al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, has it happened, despite the cautions?

Gen. Hayden: Sir, I'll give you a detail in closed session, all right? Clearly, I think logic would dictate that if you're using a probable cause standard as opposed to absolute certitude, sometimes you may not be right.

 

Alberto Gonzales

From a Feb. 6, 2006 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the warrantless wiretapping program

Attorney General Gonzales: ... Before going any further, I should make clear what I can discuss today. I am here to explain the department's assessment that the president's terrorist surveillance program is consistent with our laws and the Constitution. I am not here to discuss the operational details of that program or any other classified activity. The president has described the terrorist surveillance program in response to certain leaks. And my discussion in this open forum must be limited to those facts the president has publicly confirmed, nothing more. Many operational details of our intelligence activities remain classified and unknown to our enemy, and it is vital that they remain so. ...

While the president approved this program to respond to the new threats against us, he also imposed several important safeguards to protect the privacy and the civil liberties of all Americans. ...

Mr. Chairman, the terrorist surveillance program is lawful in all respects. ...

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.): So NSA didn't do this until the president gave them the green light that they could engage in warrantless wiretapping of Americans inside the United States under the circumstances you described in your earlier testimony?

Attorney General Gonzales: Of course. Senator, the NSA has other authorities to engage in electronic surveillance --

Sen. Leahy: I understand that. I am talking about this specific program.

Attorney General Gonzales: And I am told they took advantage of those authorities, but it is my understanding -- and I believe this to be true -- that the NSA did not commence the kind of electronic surveillance which I am discussing here today prior to the president's authorization. ...

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.): Just to go back to what Sen. Biden and then Sen. Kyl referred to about Al Qaeda to Al Qaeda within the country -- you are saying we do not get involved in those cases. Now, it would --

Attorney General Gonzales: Not under the program on which I am testifying, that is right. ...

Sen. Kohl: Yet the president has said, you know, with great justification, he is going to protect the American people regardless, and if there is some criticism, he will take the criticism. And yet you are saying Al Qaeda to Al Qaeda within the country is beyond the bounds?

Attorney General Gonzales: Senator, it is beyond the bounds of the program which I am testifying about today. ...

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Has the president ever invoked this [executive] authority with respect to any activity other than NSA surveillance?

Attorney General Gonzales: Again, senator, I am not sure how to answer that question. The president has exercised his authority to authorize this very targeted surveillance of international communications of the enemy. I am sorry. Your question is?

Sen. Feinstein: Has the president ever invoked this authority with respect to any activity other than the program we are discussing, the NSA surveillance --

Attorney General Gonzales: Senator, I am not comfortable going down the road of saying yes or no as to what the president has or has not authorized. ...

Sen. Leahy: Is there anything to stop you from wiretapping without a warrant somebody inside the United States that you suspect of having Al Qaeda connections?

Attorney General Gonzales: Clearly, senator, that is not what is going on here, first of all. The president has authorized a much more narrow program. We are always, of course, subject to the Fourth Amendment, so the activities of any kind of surveillance within the United States would, of course, be subject to the Fourth Amendment. ...

Sen. Leahy: Let me ask you this: Under your interpretation of this, can you go in and do mail searches? Can you open first-class mail? Can you do black-bag jobs? And under the idea that you do not have much time to go through what you describe as a cumbersome procedure, but most people think it is a pretty easy procedure, to get a FISA warrant, can you go and do that [to] Americans?

Attorney General Gonzales: Sir, I have tried to outline for you and the Committee what the president has authorized, and that is all that he has authorized.

Sen. Leahy: Did it authorize the opening of first-class mail of U.S. citizens? That you can answer yes or no.

Attorney General Gonzales: There is all kinds of wild speculation about what the --

Sen. Leahy: Did it authorize it?

Attorney General Gonzales: There is all kinds of wild speculation out there about what the president has authorized and what we are actually doing. And I am not going to get into a discussion, senator, about --

Sen. Leahy: Mr. Attorney General, you are not answering my question. I am not asking you what the president authorized. Does this law -- you are the chief law enforcement officer of the country -- does this law authorize the opening of first-class mail of U.S. citizens? Yes or no, under your interpretation?

Attorney General Gonzales: Senator, I think that, again, that is not what is going on here. We are only focused on communications, international communications, where one party to the communication is Al Qaeda. That is what this program is all about. ...

Sen. Leahy: Well, if the president has that authority, does he also have the authority to wiretap Americans' domestic calls and e-mails under this -- let me finish -- under this authority, if he feels it involved Al Qaeda activity? I am talking about within this country, under this authority you have talked about, does he have the power to wiretap Americans within the United States if they are involved in Al Qaeda activity?

Attorney General Gonzales: Sir, I have been asked this question several times --

Sen. Leahy: I know, and you have had somewhat of a vague answer, so I am asking it again.

Attorney General Gonzales: And I have said that that presents a different legal question, a possibly tough constitutional question, and I am not comfortable just off the cuff talking about whether or not such activity would, in fact, be constitutional.

I will say that that is not what we are talking about here. ... I cannot give you assurances. That is not what the president has authorized through this program. ...

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY): Let me ask you about some specific reports. It has been reported by multiple news outlets that the former number two man in the Justice Department, the premier terrorism prosecutor, Jim Comey, expressed grave reservations about the NSA program and at least once refused to give it his blessing. Is that true?

Attorney General Gonzales: Senator, here is a response that I feel that I can give with respect to recent speculation or stories about disagreements. There has not been any serious disagreement, including -- and I think this is accurate -- there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations, which I cannot get into. I will also say --

Sen. Schumer: But there was some -- I am sorry to cut you off, but there was some dissent within the administration, and Jim Comey did express at some point -- that is all I asked you -- some reservations.

Attorney General Gonzales: The point I want to make is that, to my knowledge, none of the reservations dealt with the program that we are talking about today. They dealt with operational capabilities that we are not talking about today. ...

Senator, I want to be very careful here. Because of course I am here only testifying about what the president has confirmed. And with respect to what the president has confirmed, I believe -- I do not believe that these DOJ officials that you are identifying had concerns about this program.

 

From a May 23, 2006 press conference

Reporter's question: Attorney General Gonzales, I was wondering if you could explain why the administration felt that it was necessary to collect the telephone detail records from the phone companies in your anti-terror [efforts] -- the president has addressed this in a limited way, but I wondered if you could.

Attorney General Gonzales: There has been no confirmation about any details relating to the USA Today story. Now, the president has confirmed that with respect to domestic collection, none of that is occurring in the United States without a court order. He has also indicated that we understand we have legal obligations in terms of collection of certain kinds of information. And those legal obligations are being met.

I will say that what was in the USA Today story did relate to business records. As some of you may know the U.S. Supreme Court, I believe in 1979, in Smith v. Maryland held that those kinds of records do not enjoy Fourth Amendment protection. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in those kinds of records.

There is a statutory right of privacy, but that statute recognizes that with respect to business records there are a multiple number of ways that the government can have access to that information, to business records and, of course, the government such as the FBI can issue national security letters and obtain them through those means. There are a number of legal ways, of course, that the government can have access to business records.

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posted may. 15, 2007

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