Cheney says Sept 11 attacks could have been averted with wiretaps

12.18.2005, 08:38 PM

WASHINGTON (AFX) - Vice President Richard Cheney said the September 11 attacks on the United States could have been averted, if the government had the power to monitor electronic communications inside the country.

'It's the kind of capability if we'd had before 9/11 might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11,' Cheney said in an interview with ABC's 'Nightline' program.

President George W. Bush admitted Saturday that he had authorized secret wiretaps by the National Security Agency on US and foreign citizens in the United States just after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, without the need for approval from a special court.

In his weekly radio address, Bush confirmed a New York Times report that he had authorized eavesdropping on overseas communications by people living in the United States who were suspected of terrorist activities.

The admission has drawn outcry from human rights groups while some lawmakers have accused the president of breaking the law because normally a court warrant is needed for such action under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

But Cheney reminded that two of the Sept 11 terrorists were in San Diego, California before the attacks and communicating with Al-Qaeda sources outside the United States.

'We didn't know it,' he said. 'The 9/11 Commission talks about it. If we'd had this capability, then we might well have been able to stop it.'

He said that the communications that are being monitored involved only known terrorist suspects.

'And in fact, it is consistent with the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief,' he insisted. 'It's consistent with the resolution that was passed by the Congress after 9/11.'