The answer is clear. As The Washington Post reported Sunday, much of the NSA data-mining produced leads that led nowhere. They didn't provide probable cause for a warrant.
Even in cases where a FISA warrant would seem to be a sure thing -- as when FBI agents wanted to get into (now admitted al-Qaida terrorist) Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop -- it was not.
This is straight from the Sept. 11 panel report: Even though an FBI agent had figured out that admitted terrorist Moussaoui was "an Islamic extremist preparing for some future act in furtherance of radical fundamentalist goals,'' even though Moussaoui drew suspicion taking lessons for flying the Boeing 747 without the requisite background, even though Moussaoui had $32,000 in the bank but no plausible explanation why, "the case agent did not have sufficient information to connect Moussaoui to a 'foreign power'" -- which was a "statutory requirement for a FISA warrant."
Is the Bush administration doing everything right? Hell, no. The Bushies' argument that Congress essentially authorized these wiretaps when it authorized the use of military force after the Sept. 11 attacks is disingenuous and infuriating.
Lucky for Dubya, the Senate Judiciary Committee is filled with the most bombastic windbags in America -- they are more irritating saying absolutely nothing than Gonzales is saying next to nothing.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chair, has pushed for the administration to ask the FISA court to review the NSA program. "You think you're right, but there are a lot of people who think you're wrong," Specter told Gonzales. "What do you have to lose if you're right?"
The question should be: What does America have to lose? If FISA found against the NSA program, one would hope Congress would pass laws designed to give intelligence officials what they need -- as long as there's oversight to prevent abuses. But that may be asking too much.
The best way to define the most irritating senators on the Judiciary Committee: They voted for the Patriot Act before they voted against it.