Bush Defends Wiretaps, Scolds Senate on Patriot Act

In his third public appearance in three days, President Bush faced tough questions from the White House press corps and defended his use of secret wiretaps within the United States. He also scolded senators who voted against renewal of the Patriot Act, calling it an essential tool in the so-called "war on terror." NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea reports.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, does President Bush have the authority to authorize eavesdropping on Americans without a court order? The president talked about that and other issues at a news conference earlier today. More now from NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA reporting:

The president used this year-end news conference to insist that he has the constitutional authority to call for secret wiretaps without court approval of communication between the US and foreign locations by suspected terrorists and he had scathing criticism for the person within the government who leaked the story to The New York Times.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy.

GONYEA: The topic of US intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction also came up. No such weapons were found. The president was asked if that hurts US credibility around the world as it confronts new threats. He acknowledged that it does.

Pres. BUSH: Where it is going to be most difficult to make the cases in the public arena, people will say, `You know, if we're trying to make the case on Iran, you know, well, the intelligence failed in Iraq and, therefore, how can we trust the intelligence in Iran?'

GONYEA: The news conference was the culmination of a recent push by the administration to rebuild support for the mission in Iraq and to convince Americans that the war is being won. Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.

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