Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires—a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
That's President Bush, touting the Patriot Act in April 2004. By the time he made that statement, the President had already personally approved warrantless wiretaps at least sixteen times.
It sure looks like the wiretap thing was illegal to the point of showing utter contempt for democracy and the law, not to mention the Constitution, but I'm not a lawyer. Regardless of its legality, it seems very clear that the program sidesteps checks and balances between secret police and the courts and between the President and Congress.