I read this story today about the President's spokesperson talking about FISA and the PAA.
Pertinent bits of press-briefing transcript from the post:
QUESTION: Is it not the case, as the writers of the op-ed in today’s Post claim, that the law protects all of this until August?
PERINO: It’s a little bit more complex than that. […]
QUESTION: Dana, to be clear, don’t you still — you can still pursue that information, go after it, as long as you come back within three days and get a warrant under FISA, correct? I mean –
PERINO: I’m not a lawyer. […]
(Click through the link to get more of a flavor of what went on.) From this, I think whatever they were doing with the telecom companies' wiretapping and the PAA wasn't saving lives. If it was, then I think Perino would comfortably state that the law was broken, but that it is OK because they needed to do it to save lives. That Perino won't do this says to me that they are concerned that if they have to show that they saved lives in order to justify before the public their law-breaking, they wouldn't really be able to come up with proof of that. So instead, in order to shield themselves, they're forced to deny reality and state that the law wasn't even ever broken.
What did come out of the wiretapping? Was it used for any political motivations instead of terrorism-fighting ones? (Surely there are Republicans, including influential ones, who would argue at least privately that anything that helps the Republicans helps to fight terror, but that is besides the point.) From what we know, we can't say for certain, I think, that it was, and that the administration is not just worried about being caught breaking the law. But, we do know that they pretty typically use things they are not supposed to for political reasons, even things we think are revolting for them to use for political reasons. I myself wouldn't be surprised to find out Bush and Cheney were doing things more or less like ordering the Secret Service or the FBI to take Obama signs off of peoples' lawns during the general election campaign, or to find out that many Secret Service members or FBI agents were complying with orders to do things like that while they were working, on the government's payroll. So while the specific information about the scandal doesn't directly indicate whether this is what the White House was doing, one way or the other, I think it's a natural conclusion to draw that they were.