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Bush: I Strongly Disagree With Judge's Ruling Against NSA Wiretap Program

A federal judge's decision to declare the administration's warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional is wrong, President Bush said Friday.

"Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live," Bush told reporters at his presidential retreat in Camp David, Md.

Bush ordered the Justice Department to appeal the Thursday ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit. Taylor ruled that the National Security Agency's program that monitors some electronic communication inside the United States without a warrant should be halted.

The program allows the NSA to intercept telephone calls and e-mails without court approval in cases in which the government suspects a party of having links to terrorism. At least one of the people involved in the communication has to be outside of the United States.

"If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know why they are calling," Bush said.

The president authorized the program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has argued that it is effective and has helped stop anymore terror attacks.

"We must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war," Bush said.

The government is appealing to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

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"We're going to do everything we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference in Washington. The Justice Department appealed within hours of Taylor's ruling.

Taylor was the first judge to rule on the legality of the program, saying it violates the rights to free speech and privacy, and the separation of powers.

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

Click here to read the judge's opinion (pdf).

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration "couldn't disagree more with this ruling." He said the program carefully targets communications of suspected terrorists and "has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives."

The goverment said it would ask for a stay of Taylor's order to halt the program.

Republicans joined the adminstration's call to reverse the judge's ruling.

"We need to strengthen, not weaken, our ability to foil terrorist plots before they can do us harm," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in a statement. "I encourage swift appeal by the government and quick reversal of this unfortunate decision."

Democrats were quick to issue statements against the program and praised Taylor's ruling.

"Today's federal court decision on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program confirms the doubts I have had about the program's constitutionality ever since I first learned about it," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., in a statement.

Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts backed up Biden's position, adding that the Bush administration used its own rules for surveillance of Americans.

"By acting so cavalierly, the White House created a surveillance program that flunks the requirements of our laws and Constitution and leaves us at risk," the Democrat said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, said it would oppose a stay but agreed to delay enforcement of the injunction until Taylor hears arguments Sept. 7.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which monitors international phone calls and e-mails to or from the U.S. involving people the government suspects have terrorist links.

The ACLU says the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to grant warrants for such surveillance, gave the government enough tools to monitor suspected terrorists.

The government argued the NSA program is well within the president's authority but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.

The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule. The administration has decried leaks that led to a New York Times report about the existence of the program last year.

Taylor, a Carter appointee, said the government appeared to argue that the program is beyond judicial scrutiny.

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called Taylor's opinion "another nail in the coffin in the Bush administration's legal strategy in the War on Terror."

While siding with the ACLU on the surveillance issue, Taylor dismissed a separate claim by the group over NSA data-mining of phone records. She said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation would jeopardize state secrets.

FOX News' Bret Baier and Greg Kelly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.