"The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," he said in hastily arranged remarks, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously, we're still not completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in."
US authorities have issued their highest-level terrorism alert for the first since the system was created following the 9/11 attacks.
British police arrested 21 people overnight allegedly involved in planning to bomb multiple US airliners over the Atlantic in an operation US officials rushed to say bore the imprint of Al-Qaeda.
The embattled president exploited the chance to defend his record on terrorism amid fears in his Republican party that his handling of the unpopular Iraq war, which has dragged down his approval ratings, may hurt them in November 7 congressional elections.
"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America," he said.
"And that is why we have given our officials the tools they need to protect our people."
Since 9/11 the Bush administration has authorized several controversial measures that, when leaked to the media, drew immediate rebuke from politicians and human rights advocates.
Bush has secretly authorized the super-secret National Security Agency to intercept communications without the court approval requited under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The New York Times disclosed that the NSA has "directly" tapped the country's main communications systems without court-approved warrants.
The administration has secretly been tapping into a vast global database of confidential financial transactions, involving millions of records, under the pretext of terror combat.
Bush also tried to exploit the situation to make political gains by hammering unnamed critics he accused of having all but forgotten the 9/11 attacks, according to AFP.
Weighed down by the unpopular war in Iraq, Bush and his aides have tried to shift the national political debate from that conflict to the broader and more popular global war on terror ahead of November 7 congressional elections.
His remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.
Vice President Dick Cheney and White House spokesman Tony Snow had argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called "a white flag in the war on terror."
But Bush aides on Thursday fought the notion that they had exploited their knowledge of the coming British raid to hit Democrats.
"The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.
Three-term US Senator Joseph Lieberman has lost primaries in Connecticut to win the Democratic Party's Senate ticket to a political newcomer, a defeat blamed on his staunch support for the US-led invasion of Iraq and close ties to Bush.
The public relations offensive "was not done in anticipation. It was not said with the knowledge that this was coming," Snow argued.
He said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism.
Cheney had suggested that Democrats believe "that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't, we can't, be."
While some Democrats have opposed some steps in Bush's war on terrorism, and many more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict.
But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.
"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.
Another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, said that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.
"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big."
Source:Islamonline.netGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16