Q You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, youd like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are
THE PRESIDENT: Im not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, whats your question?
Q Okay, I dont have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Booo!
THE PRESIDENT: No, wait a sec let him speak.
Q And I would hope I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what Im saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.
THE PRESIDENT: It is, yes. (Applause.)
Q And I know that this doesnt come welcome to most of the people in this room, but I do appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate
Q I dont have a question, but I just wanted to make that comment to you.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate it, thank you. Let me
Q Can I ask a question?
THE PRESIDENT: Im going to start off with what you first said, if you dont mind, you said that I tap your phones I think thats what you said. You tapped your phone I tapped your phones. Yes. No, thats right. Yes, no, let me finish.
Id like to describe that decision I made about protecting this country. You can come to whatever conclusion you want. The conclusion is Im not going to apologize for what I did on the terrorist surveillance program, and Ill tell you why. We were accused in Washington, D.C. of not connecting the dots, that we didnt do everything we could to protect you or others from the attack. And so I called in the people responsible for helping to protect the American people and the homeland. I said, is there anything more we could do.
And there out of this national NSA came the recommendation that it would make sense for us to listen to a call outside the country, inside the country from al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda in order to have real-time information from which to possibly prevent an attack. I thought that made sense, so long as it was constitutional. Now, you may not agree with the constitutional assessment given to me by lawyers and weve got plenty of them in Washington but they made this assessment that it was constitutional for me to make that decision.
I then, sir, took that decision to members of the United States Congress from both political parties and briefed them on the decision that was made in order to protect the American people. And so members of both parties, both chambers, were fully aware of a program intended to know whether or not al Qaeda was calling in or calling out of the country. It seems like to make sense, if were at war, we ought to be using tools necessary within the Constitution, on a very limited basis, a program thats reviewed constantly to protect us.
Now, you and I have a different of agreement on what is needed to be protected. But you said, would I apologize for that? The answer answer is, absolutely not. (Applause.)