And Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory (a legal blog I've recently discovered) has a question he'd like answered, as well.
Since the secret FISA court has always rubber-stamped virtually every warrant request, what possible legitimate reason could exist for bypassing it? That question has been largely forgotten, but it still has never been answered, by anyone.Adding to the discussion, Nat Hentoff answers Ann Coulter's charge that the New York Times is guilty of treason for revealing the NSA's secret warrantless wiretaps by quoting Federal Circuit Court Judge Damon Keith, "democracy dies behind closed doors."
And I have an answer for Ann, too. She writes:
After all the ballyhoo about how it was duck soup to get a warrant from FISA, I thought it was pretty big news when it later turned out that the FISA court had been denying warrant requests from the Bush administration like never before. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the FISA court "modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than from the four previous presidential administrations combined."
In the 20 years preceding the attack of 9/11, the FISA court did not modify -- much less reject -- one single warrant request. But starting in 2001, the judges "modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for court-ordered surveillance by the Bush administration." In the years 2003 and 2004, the court issued 173 "substantive modifications" to warrant requests and rejected or "deferred" six warrant requests outright.
What would a Democrat president have done at that point? Apparently, the answer is: Sit back and wait for the next terrorist attack.
A possibility that Ann is either unwilling or incapable of entertaining is that the reason the Bush administration was the first administration to ever have a warrant rejected (and for the sake of argument I'm assuming Ann's facts are correct) might be because it was the first administration to attempt to misuse the wiretaps in a manner that was egregious enough to lead to the court's rejection. Unless Coulter can somehow show that the FISA court for some inexplicable reason seeks to undermine national security this would seem the most parsimonious (and reasonable) answer.