US President George W Bush has insisted that security services must be allowed to carry on with secret monitoring of citizens suspected to have links with al Qaeda.
“This programme has targeted those with known links to Al Qaeda. I have re-authorised this programme more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks and I intend to do so for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens,” he said.
It is reported that Bush signed a secret order in the wake of 9/11 allowing the National Security Agency to track the international phone calls and emails of hundreds of people without authority from the courts.
The revelation has led to growing protests from Democrat politicians.
Last Friday, the Senate refused to re-authorise significant parts of the Patriot Act after complaints that they presented a threat to Americans’ privacy and liberty.
Bush has accused the detractors of playing politics; but the Democrats are adamant, says Senator Carl Levin:
“Where does he find in the Constitution the authority to tap the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight?” he said. Meanwhile, the Chief of the National Security Agency has admitted that some of those monitored did not turn out to have any link with al Qaeda.
Michael Hayden refused to say how many people were monitored, but did say that surveillance of those proved to have no terrorist link was stopped immediately.