This unprecedented number of press conferences in the last few days indicates that Bush advisors are edgy about the revelations of warrantless spying on American citizens. The conference began first by reminding Americans to be terrified and then continued along by justifying his authorization of spying on citizens. He asserts that he has the absolute authority to spy on the US.

More on this when I can get the transcripts

Update: Given the emergency provisions allowed by FISA the fact that FISA was bypassed must mean that they feared no warrant would be granted. No warrant being passed would indicate that the reasons for spying had to be pretty slim to begin with or had nothing to do with ‘war’.

Update 2: The transcript of the December 19, 2005 is available here.

My own, admittedly partisan, perceptions of Bush during this conference seem to indicate to me that he is under tremendous strain, delusional and quite possibly off his meds. His vocal inflections included a whine at the end of certain sentences – when insisting that the public ‘needs to understand’ a point.

Our mission in Iraq is critical in the victory in the global war on terror. After our country was attacked on September the 11th and nearly 3,000 lives were lost, I vowed to do everything within my power to bring justice to those who were responsible. I also pledged to the American people to do everything within my power to prevent this from happening again. What we quickly learned was that al Qaeda was not a conventional enemy. Some lived in our cities and communities, and communicated from here in America to plot and plan with bin Laden’s lieutenants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Then they boarded our airplanes and launched the worst attack on our country in our nation’s history.

As usual Bush asserts that Iraq and global terrorism go hand in hand. He again makes the assumption that his audience relates the insurgency that has grown from the occupation to terrorist acts on American soil. Also, while Pearl Harbor was primarily a military target, as was the Pentagon, wouldn’t Pearl Harbor qualify as a potent attack?

This new threat required us to think and act differently. And as the 9/11 Commission pointed out, to prevent this from happening again, we need to connect the dots before the enemy attacks, not after. And we need to recognize that dealing with al Qaeda is not simply a matter of law enforcement; it requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States of America.

This statement runs along the early morning interview with Atty Gen Gonzales – when FISA was written we didn’t have cell phones – argument.

After September the 11th, one question my administration had to answer was how, using the authorities I have, how do we effectively detect enemies hiding in our midst and prevent them from striking us again? We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al Qaeda here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives. To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks.

This is the same ‘keep America terrified’ tactic used all along. The hypothetical what if scenario to justify a pre-emptive strike in the first place. Sen Lindsay Graham said today

we can’t become an outcome-based democracy. Even in a time of war, you have to follow the process, because that’s what a democracy is all about-a process.

In other words the end DOES NOT justify the means. This axiom could be applied to the war in Iraq even if a US friendly democracy emerges.

Despite being asked, Bush never explains why his authorization of warrantless wiretapping was necessary given that he has always had the ability to obtain warrants retroactively. The only explanation can be as I mentioned above, he didn’t feel a warrant would be granted. This begs the question then, who is he really spying on? Journalists as speculated by John Aravosis? Or perhaps corporate spying on Halliburton rivals?