THE BLOG
01/31/2006 09:56 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bush's Wiretapping Distortion

In his State of the Union address, President Bush highlighted the case of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Al-Midhar and Salem Al-Hazmi to make the case for his so-called "terrorist surveillance program," which is actually a domestic wiretapping program which may have been used against ordinary Americans. Bush claimed Al-Midhar and Al-Hazmi made phone calls within the US that could have been intercepted if his wiretapping program were in place. Imagine, the 9/11 plot could have been stopped if only those pointy-headed bureaucrats at FISA and their Democratic shills hadn't been in the way!

In fact, Al-Midhar bought his plane ticket for Flight 77 with his real name. At the time, he was wanted by the FBI and CIA for attending a terrorist meeting in Malaysia. He was also on a State Department watch list called TIPOFF. Al-Hazmi also bought a ticket for Flight 77 using his real name. And he shared an address as 9/11 hijacker Nawaq Alhazmi. Al-Midhar, for his part, was living with Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the plot.
Al Gore brought these facts forward in his 2003 speech, "Freedom and Security," and to date, no one has challenged him.

The point is, if existing programs had been utilized properly, and the FBI had conducted simple searches for common addresses among wanted terrorists living in the US, the 9/11 plot might have been foiled. Besides being illegal, Bush's domestic wiretapping program was -- and is -- unnecessary in protecting America from terrorism. This raises questions about the White House's motives for implementing such a program. When the dust clears and the real targets of this program are revealed, will they turn out to be suspected terrorists, or ordinary Americans? Bush's failure to marshal credible justification suggests it will be the latter.