Bush: US surveillance helped stop attack
Updated: 2006-02-10 08:27
Under fire for eavesdropping on Americans, US President Bush said Thursday
that spy work stretching from the U.S. to Asia helped thwart terrorists plotting
to use shoe bombs to hijack an airliner and crash it into the tallest skyscraper
on the West Coast.
"It took the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot,"
Bush said. "By working together we stopped a catastrophic attack on our
Some information about the foiled attack was disclosed last year, but Bush
offered more details to highlight international cooperation in fighting
terrorists. He did not say whether information about the West Coast plot was
collected by his administration's program to monitor ¡ª without court warrants ¡ª
some calls to the U.S. from terror suspects overseas.
The White House said that issue was not the point of the speech, but the
president and his advisers have been vigorously defending the legality of the
program, which has been questioned by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
After weeks of
insisting that divulging details of the monitoring program would hinder
intelligence gathering, the White House relented Wednesday and began briefing
some additional lawmakers.
The U.S. Bank Tower, formerly known as the
Library Tower, stretches above other buildings in downtown Los Angeles
Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006.[AP]
Meanwhile, the president's monthlong campaign to convince Americans the
government's eavesdropping program is essential to the war on terrorism appears
to be making an impact.
In a new AP-Ipsos poll, 48 percent now support wiretapping without a warrant
in cases of suspected communications with terrorists, up from 42 percent last
month. Half say the administration should have to get a warrant, down from 56
percent. Men in particular have come around to Bush's view over the last month,
the poll suggested.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, four Senate Republican holdouts reached agreement
with the White House on minor changes in the Patriot Act, hoping to clear the
way for renewal of anti-terror legislation that Bush says is essential in the
fight against terrorists.
In his speech, at the National Guard Memorial Building, Bush said Khalid
Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, began planning
the West Coast operation in October 2001. One of Mohammed's key planners was a
man known as Hambali, the alleged operations chief of the terrorist group Jemaah
Islamiyah, which is affiliated with al-Qaida.
"Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on Sept. 11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
sought out young men from Southeast Asia ¡ª whom he believed would not arouse as
much suspicion," Bush said.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa complained he first learned of
Bush's remarks while watching TV.
"I'm amazed that the president would make this on national TV and not inform
us of these details through the appropriate channels," said the mayor, a