Wiretaps' Fishy Rationale

It's no surprise that the President defended the NSA's domestic eavesdropping this morning; the guy backs every decision he makes, to the death. And it's no surprise to learn that the President had "reauthorized the program more than 30 times since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and plans to continue doing so," according to the AP.But what's odd is why the Administration felt they needed to avoid geting warrants for the wiretaps, in the first place. As Josh notes:

[T]he prime rationale for this program appears to have been to avoid the time and bureaucratic hurdles involved in getting warrants.In the abstract, there sounds like there might be some merit in that argument, especially considering the importance of speed in counter-terrorism work.The problem is that the FISA Court -- the secret court set up to handle just such warrant requests -- is designed for speed. And it is known for being extremely indulgent of government applications for warrants...It turns out that FISA specifically empowers the Attorney General or his designee to start wiretapping on an emergency basis even without a warrant so long as a retroactive application is made for one "as soon as practicable, but not more than 72 hours after the Attorney General authorizes such surveillance." (see specific citation, here)...All of this, of course, is separate from the issue of the president overruling a federal statute by executive order -- something that by definition a president cannot do. But something seems fishy about the rationale itself.
But that's not the only fishy thing here. In his radio address today, the President said:
The existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.
Which implies that, somehow, suspected jihadists might not have known before that the government could be eavesdropping on them. Realistically, what are the chances of that?UPDATE 2:05 PM EST: Also, if the Administration thinks it basically has the power to do whatever it damn pleases -- detain Americans indefinitely, torture terror suspects, eavesdrop without a warrant -- then why bother pushing for the Patriot Act? What do you need new laws for, if you're already allowed to use every trick in the book?UPDATE 12/18/05 AM: Ryan says the same thing, but better. And be sure to check out this WaPo page one analysis:
In his four-year campaign against al Qaeda, President Bush has turned the U.S. national security apparatus inward to secretly collect information on American citizens on a scale unmatched since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s.
UPDATE 12/18/05 PM: Be sure to check out Glenn Greenwald on whether or not these warantless wiretaps were legal or not. (Hint: no.)
Were not talking here about an unconvincing or erroneous legal argument. This is something different entirely it is an argument based upon a fundamental misquoting of the law in question designed to make illegal behavior look legal.
(Big ups: Jeralyn)
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