Who needs the Patriot Act, anyway?

If the Bush administraiton can help itself to warrantless wiretapping, why does it need the authority renewal of the Patriot Act would provide?

Published December 21, 2005 8:22PM (EST)

As we noted earlier today, there's a lot of teeth gnashing and chicken playing going on as far as renewal of the Patriot Act is concerned. Atrios points us to the right question today: What does it matter?

If the president's commander-in-chief power and the congressional resolution authorizing use of force against al-Qaida give the Bush administration authority to spy on American citizens without a warrant, doesn't it follow that the administration has authority to do whatever else it wants to do in the war on terror, Patriot Act or not?

Reporters put that question to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this morning, and he didn't exactly answer it. Asked if the Bush administration will simply grant Patriot Act powers to itself if the Senate doesn't renew the act this week, Gonzales said: "What I will say is we continue to have hope that these provisions will be reauthorized. To the extent that they're not reauthorized, we will look at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies throughout the government to see what authorities do exist. And we will do what we can do under existing authorities to continue to protect America."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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