The truth is, domestic surveillance operations happen all the time. They are such a part of our culture, they are a regular topic of television shows and movies (think Serpico or Stakeout). But they are also governed by the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment, which explicitly protects citizens against "unreasonable search and seizures" and requires the executive branch to obtain a warrant from the objective judiciary branch in order to do surveillance operations.
So the question reporters should be asking the White House isn't why the president thinks there should be domestic efforts to track and stop terrorists. The vast majority of Americans think that. The question reporters should be asking is "Why did the President order domestic surveillance operations without obtaining constitutionally-required warrants?" That is behavior that most Americans who believe in the Constitution likely do not support at all.
Make no mistake about it - this is an especially poignant question considering that, under the Patriot Act's weakened standards, the government can now circumvent the traditional (and more rigorous) judicial system and obtain a warrant directly from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Remember, this is a court almost completely skewed in favor of the government. As Slate Magazine correctly noted, getting a warrant from that judge requires "no need for evidence or probable cause" and the judge has almost no authority to reject the government's request for a warrant, unless the government's request are extraordinarily outlandish. It is why, as Josh Marshall reports, the government's own data shows that "in a quarter century, the FISA Court has rejected four government applications for warrants." It is also why Members of Congress of both parties have tried to repeal the Patriot Act sections that allow the administration to use FISA warrants for domestic surveillance.
In his defense, the President has tried to deflect attention by repeatedly saying he needed to order these operations to protect Americans. Fine – but it still doesn't answer the real question. If the surveillance operations he ordered were so crucial and so important to protecting our country, how come he didn't get a warrant? Surely something so critical to our security would have easily elicited a warrant from a FISA court already inclined to issue warrants in the first place, right?
And that gets us right back to the most important question: why would the President deliberately circumvent a court that was already wholly inclined to grant him domestic surveillance warrants? The answer is obvious, though as yet largely unstated in the mainstream media: because the President was likely ordering surveillance operations that were so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror, and, to put it in Constitutional terms, so "unreasonable" that even a FISA court would not have granted them.
This is no conspiracy theory - all the signs point right to this conclusion. In fact, it would be a conspiracy theory to say otherwise, because it would be ignoring the cold, hard facts that we already know.
Yep. The burden of proof at this point is for the Bush apologists to 'splain this one. If the hurdle's (deliberatley set) so low, the only reason they would want to avoid the hurdle is that they simply couldn't meet it; the logic is inexorable.
And that pretty much tells you all you need to know about it.