President Bush wants Congress to approve military commissions to try suspected terrorist leaders in U.S. custody. The president and opposition Democrats are both addressing national security ahead of Monday's fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
As Americans prepare to mark that anniversary, President Bush says they remember the brutality of the enemies who struck, and the nation's resolve to defeat them. So, the president is asking Congress to approve military commissions to put suspected terrorists on trial.
"As soon as Congress acts to authorize these military commissions, we will prosecute these men, and send a clear message to those who kill Americans: 'No matter how long it takes, we will find you and bring you to justice.'"
Among those the president wants tried before the commissions are 14 suspects previously held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Bush publicly acknowledged that previously-classified program this past week, saying those suspects are now being held at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"This program has been invaluable to the security of America and its allies, and helped us identify and capture men, who, our intelligence community believes, were key architects of the September the 11th attacks."
Without the knowledge gained from secret CIA interrogations, President Bush says, U.S. intelligence officials believe al-Qaida terrorists would have succeeded in launching another attack inside the United States.
The president used his weekly radio address to recap a series of speeches he has given about terrorism ahead of the September 11th anniversary. Some opposition Democrats say Mr. Bush is politicizing the issue in hopes of helping Republicans in Congressional elections in November.
While public opinion polls show a majority of Americans support the president's handling of the fight against terrorism, they are far less supportive of the war in Iraq, which some Democrats say is a distraction from fighting terrorism.
In the Democratic radio address, Ohio Congressman Sherrod Brown criticized the president and Republican leaders in Congress for what he called inaction and delay in failing to better protect America's borders and nuclear facilities.
Brown says it is time to refocus on destroying al-Qaida by stopping what he calls the president's open-ended commitment in Iraq.
"While Iraq was not part of the war on terror before we invaded, it's now a training ground for terrorists and a recruiting tool for the leaders of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. Our military readiness has plummeted to levels not seen since Vietnam, diverted resources from the war on terror and made America less safe."
President Bush says Iraq is the central front in the fight against terrorism. If U.S. troops do not defeat terrorists there, he says, Americans will be forced to fight them at home.
The president and Mrs. Bush will mark the September 11th anniversary by visiting each of the sites where Americans died - the World Trade Center in New York, a field in Pennsylvania where a hijacked jetliner crashed, and the Pentagon outside Washington.
President Bush will then address the nation from the White House in what officials say will not be a political speech, but will instead reflect on what September 11th has meant to the country and its fight against terrorism.