- This is a necessary part of the war on terror and we can't afford to wait for warrants.
- It's really legal because Congress authorized POTUS to do anything he [deleted] well pleases in support of the war on terror.
Balked in their wish to spy on U.S. citizens for whom they couldn't show probable cause that they were communicating with terrorists (in less than half of 1% of cases), the administration chose to issue executive orders to bypass FISA altogether. This is very likely the reason that U.S. District Judge James Robertson resigned from the FISA panel in protest. This looks to me as if the administration simply can't bear to account to anyone for any of its actions, and friends, that's not a valid position for the country's president, no matter who he thinks we're at war with.
The administration is currently justifying these efforts on the grounds that they either have protected us or are protecting us from attack by al Quaeda. This, frankly, is hogwash. Al Quaeda (using that as shorthand for the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist underworld) has agents who are willing to die themselves in order to attack western targets. There is no defense against a man who is willing to die in order to kill you. They could possibly intercept another carefully coordinated series of attacks a la 9/11. They can't do a thing about a single man with a dirty bomb in a backpack, or a truck.
The Daily Kos blog published a great analysis of how likely you are to die from a terrorist attack versus any other cause. The number I like is that you are 7,881 times more likely just to die (from any cause) than you are to die in a terrorist attack. (For that matter, you're 24 times more likely to die from overdosing on Motrin than from a terror attack; it's a great article if you haven't read it.) At this point, the cost benefit analysis breaks down. On those odds, no, it is not worth allowing this level of erosion of civil liberties in order to "protect" us. If you're really that afraid of dying, you'd never drive a car (85 times more likely than terror), and you'd certainly never smoke (1,290 times...). Since we all drive cars, and too many of us smoke, we're obviously not that scared; we just haven't considered the odds properly.
I'll consider the issue of Congressional permission to do whatever in another rant.