NewsWire: The Oval

Welcome to the newest member of TDI’s political unit, The Oval. This short NewsWire will take a look at some of the most pressing matters facing the Oval Office in recent days, no matter who is sitting in it. I will do my best to leave personal politics out of it. But of course, that only has to apply to me. After all, I’m only the one writing this! Your comments are always welcome. This week in the Oval Office, there’s been a flurry of Christmas politics. From Iraq to the Patriot Act, to the President authorizing spying on U.S. citizens? What’s that all about? Let’s find out in The Oval!

Earlier this week, Iraq held historic – and victorious – elections. Speaking to a crowd at the Wilson Center, President George W. Bush said that the “story of freedom had just begun”, saying: “When the history of these days is written, it will tell how America once again defended its own freedom by using liberty to transform nations from bitter foes to strong allies.” (read) But Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) says that Bush hasn’t equipped the Army properly for the war in Iraq. “You’ve got to believe President Reagan is turning over in his grave.” (read)

The Patriot Act has been one of the most debated, politically-charged peices of legislation to come down in a long time, perhaps since Roe v. Wade. And if Congress does not renew the legislation by the end of 2005, the Patriot Act will expire. Rachel Brand, the Assistant Attorney General, says that “losing those provisions will create uncertianty about how we currently conduct investigations and prosecutions”, and the provions have been “critical to our efforts to keep America safe from another terrorist attack.” (read) But not everyone on Capitol Hill thinks that about the bill. “We can come together to give the government the tools it needs to fight terrorism and protect the rights and freedoms of innocent citizens,” said Senator Russel Feingold (D-WI), arguing that the provisions that allowed access to confidential personal data lacked safeguards to protect the innocent. (read) President Bush rejected a short-term renewal to provide for more debate, insiting on a longer-lasting renewal.

President Bush shocked the political community this week by confirming reports that he has authorized the National Security Agency to intercept international communications of “people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.” Those communications were with Americans, on US soil. President Bush added that “the government must have information that estabishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.” President Bush also warned whoever leaked this “highly classified program” by adding: “Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.” (read) Critics of these operations, including Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) promises hearings early next year into the matter. “I want to know precisely what they did, how NSA utlizied their technical equipment, whose conversations they overheard, how many conversations they overheard, what they did with the material, what purported justifaction there was.” (read)

Tonight, at 9 pm ET, President Bush will give his first oval office speech since announcing the invasion of Iraq. Among other things, he will be talking about the success stories in Iraq. And, no doubt, there will be some talk about the eavesdropping issue, along with the Patriot Act. And if TDI gets the time, we’ll bring you the highlights of the Address to the Nation.

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