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Bush: Take bin Laden's threat seriously

Associated Press
Published January 26, 2006

FORT MEADE, Md. - President Bush, defending the government's secret surveillance program, said Wednesday that Americans should take Osama bin Laden seriously when he says he's going to attack again.

"When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it," Bush said after visiting the top-secret National Security Agency where the surveillance program is based. "I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously."

It was Bush's first comment about bin Laden since the al-Qaida leader said in a tape aired last week that his fighters are preparing new attacks in the United States. Bin Laden offered a truce, without specifying the conditions, and the White House responded that the U.S. would never negotiate with the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Bush's NSA visit was part of an administration effort to defend the surveillance program. Lawmakers from both parties have questioned whether it's legal for the government to listen to conversations in the United States without a warrant, which the administration could get through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Four Democratic senators wrote Bush on Wednesday saying that they support efforts to do everything possible within the law to combat terrorism but that the NSA program is an "apparent violation of federal law."

"If you or officials in your administration believe that FISA, or any law, does not give you enough authority to combat terrorism, you should propose changes in the law to Congress," wrote Sens. Harry Reid, Edward Kennedy, Richard Durbin and Russ Feingold. "You may not simply disregard the law."

Reporters traveling with the president saw only a few minutes of Bush's NSA tour, as he walked through the high-tech Threat Operations Center where intelligence experts monitor Internet traffic. He spoke to reporters from a podium set up in a hallway after completing his tour, but did not take questions.

Bush said the NSA program is limited to communications between the United States and people overseas who are linked to al-Qaida.

He said it has helped prevent terrorist attacks and save American lives.

Bush urged that people "listen to the words of Osama bin Laden and take him seriously."

Bush said the NSA program "is fully consistent with our nation's laws and Constitution."

"I'll continue to reauthorize this program for so long as our country faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related groups," Bush said.

[Last modified January 26, 2006, 01:02:16]

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