While fighting for this Commission, we learned that prior to September 11th our intelligence apparatus held all of the puzzle pieces (the proverbial dots) needed to prevent 9/11. The problem was not that we didn't have and use enough of the right tools, but rather that our intelligence community failed to connect the dots and puzzle pieces that it already had. Therefore, the terrorists were able to achieve their goal by murdering 3,000 innocent people on 9/11.
Recently, President Bush has stated that his NSA surveillance program is a tool that was lacking in our government's arsenal prior to 9/11. He repeatedly argues that such a program will prevent another 9/11. Moreover, President Bush justifies his breach of our constitutional laws by arguing that following the FISA law would cause our intelligence community to be too clumsy and slow while dealing with a nimble enemy.
Respectfully, we call President Bush's attention to two points of fact that negate his position.
Unfortunately, those crucial intercepts were reportedly not translated until September 12, 2001. It was certainly not any FISA court issue that delayed such translation. Rather, the delay was ostensibly due to NSA's overwhelming workload created by its voluminous influx of information that needed to be translated and analyzed on a daily basis. Nevertheless, our government was able to routinely and effortlessly gather such sensitive communications well before the 9/11 attacks.
Two: The "need for speed" with regard to eavesdropping on potential terrorists is already built into the FISA court system, as it currently exists. For example, the President can start eavesdropping immediately on anyone he deems it necessary to eavesdrop on and take 72 hours to subsequently ask for a FISA warrant. Moreover, in a time of war, the President is given a full fifteen days to retroactively ask for such a warrant.
Additionally , with no formalized FISA court approval, there is no paper trail as to what our government knows and when it knows it. In truth, the FISA court provides an excellent repository that not only provides the necessary "checks and balances" with regard to civil liberties, but it also yields accountability that can be borne out in the days after the next terrorist attack.
Such circumvention of our nation's laws by our very own President raises grave concerns. His action is unfounded, illegal and unnecessary. Moreover, it threatens the very principles of democracy that our military is so courageously defending overseas.
Our nation must not, under the guise of national security and protecting citizens, allow any person holding the office of President of the United States to trample the sacred Constitution that this great country was founded on.
Retaining our civil liberties and our cherished democracy in the face of a looming terrorist threat is the only way we will win this "war on terror".