On Thursday, the Justice Department sent out a memo summarizing their legal justifications for why the government can spy on US citizens without obtaining a warrant. Yesterday, Rep. Conyers posted his opinion (which includes many good background links) on the topic:
The Justice Department has written (PDF) the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees with its legal arguments. In a nutshell, the letter argues that the President's Article II authority as Commander in Chief allows him to do whatever he wants. He doesn't need congressional authorization or oversight. He does not need to go to any court. His decisions are unreviewable by the Supreme Court. It is a similar argument used to justify torturing detainees.
My assessment of the legal basis for this argument would likely break the rules of discourse on this blog. Suffice it to say, it is not going to fly.
To bolster this pathetic Constitutional argument, the Administration also points to the September 11 use of force resolution. But here they are really playing fast and loose with the facts. In a classic heads I win, tails you lose fashion, we learned today from fromer Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle that the Administration asked for this authority and was denied it (the Washington Post has more). Having been denied this authority by Congress, they proclaim they had it anyway. See more from Armando at DailyKos.