Vice President Cheney, in an address to the Heritage Foundation this afternoon, will make the following point about the NSA intercept program.
Another vital step the President took in the days following 9/11 was to authorize the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. There are no communications more important to the safety of the United States than those related to al-Qaeda that have one end in the United States. If we’d been able to do this before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two of the hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon. They were in the United States, communicating with al-Qaeda associates overseas. But we didn’t know they were here plotting until it was too late.
If you’ll recall, the report of the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on our inability to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists abroad. The authorization the President made after September 11th helped address that problem in a manner that is fully consistent with the Constitutional responsibilities and legal authority of the President and with the civil liberties of the American people. The activities conducted under this authorization have helped to detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks against the American people. As such, this program is critical to the national security of the United States.