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Cheney says court ruling on warrantless surveillance will be reversed


RENO -- Vice President Dick Cheney predicted Monday that a recent federal court ruling finding a warrantless surveillance program unconstitutional will be overturned on appeal.

He also said U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until the job is done.

In a speech to about 6,000 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the group's annual convention, Cheney said the intelligence-gathering program run by the National Security Agency is one of the most important tools the country has to stop terrorism aimed at domestic U.S. targets.

The program was implemented by President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in a manner that was "fully consistent under the Constitution and consistent with the legal authority of the president and the civil liberties of the American people," Cheney said.

"It's hard to think of any category of information that would be more important to the safety and security of the United States," Cheney said. "The recent ruling by a federal judge ordering an end to this program is just dead wrong. We are confident it will be reversed on appeal."

A U.S. district judge in Detroit ruled Aug. 17 the program violated privacy and free speech rights, among other concerns. But that decision is on hold until a hearing in September.

Cheney's prediction of a reversal won a round of applause from the crowd, which greeted the vice president warmly for his 30-minute speech.

Outside, about three dozen protestors held placards criticizing Cheney and Bush.

One protester, Elza Minton of Palomino Valley, said he was there to support full funding for veterans programs. But he described the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration with the same phrase: "A total disaster."

Inside the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Center, Cheney focused his remarks on the fight against terror.

Noting that the five-year anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks was exactly two weeks away, the vice president said it's no accident that another major attack on U.S. soil has not happened since.

Attacks have happened around the world, from London to Bombay, Cheney said.

"Nobody can guarantee that we won't be struck again," he said.

But "sound policy decisions" by the president and good work by the military and others charged with protecting the country from attacks has been a big part of why the country has remained safe, Cheney said.

A key element to victory in the war on terror is to see that the new Iraqi government is successful, which means a continued U.S. presence there with no timetable for troop reduction or departure, he said.

"I know some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein we simply stirred up a hornet's nest," Cheney said. "They overlook a fundamental fact. We were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway."

The idea suggested by some Americans that removing the U.S. presence in Iraq would mollify the terrorists is wrong, he said.

"But the exact opposite is true," Cheney said. "Time and again over the last generation, the terrorists have targeted nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence.

"A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations and a ruinous blow to the future security of the United States," he said.

After his comments, Cheney attended a fundraiser for Nevada Republicans at a private home that was closed to the press before flying out later in the day.




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