So, according to what the President said; are court orders required for the wire-taps?
Here's a video link
to that speech.
Pertinent White House press briefing
(not sure if transcripts are part of the paragraph rule):
Q Another question. It's our understanding this power has been used 18,000-plus times. Are we to presume that there are that many al Qaeda agents in this country?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into talking about more than what we've said publicly. That's getting into more than what we've talked about publicly, so I'm not in a position to confirm or deny the numbers that you threw out there. And we don't want to go into greater detail because it's important that the enemy not have a sense of what we're working to do, because they can change and adapt. They can -- and they do. They're constantly changing and adapting. This is a sophisticated and deadly enemy that is constantly trying to change and adapt, and that moves with great speed when they need to. We must move --
Q -- give us an indication of how often this power is used?
MR. McCLELLAN: We must move with great speed to stay ahead of them.
Q You don't want to give us an indication of how often this power is used, and you don't want to give us an indication of the size of the potential threat in this country?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think, again, the Attorney General and General Hayden talked a little bit about this yesterday, but I talked about the nature of this authorization and the scope of it, and I talked about the safeguards and oversight that are in place. This is very carefully reviewed every 45 days and it --
Q I really don't need you to go there.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, but this goes to your question. It is limited to people who have -- one of the parties to the communication have a clear connection to al Qaeda or terrorist organizations, and one of the parties is operating outside of the United States. I think that's important for people to know, because there's been some suggestions that it's spying inside the U.S. That's not the case.
Q I'll stipulate that. But it is limited to that situation, are we to presume, then, that there are in excess of tens of thousands of al Qaeda agents in this country, because it's been used that many times?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not confirming or denying those numbers. I don't think anyone has done that publicly, so I'm not going to get into a discussion of that nature.
They go back and forth some more. Goler asks McClellan about Bush’s speech and McClellan artfully dodges. Since the cat was not out of the bag 20 months ago Bush can only be speaking about the Patriot Act and surveillance in general terms. Bush can say in his defense the audience couldn't have been asking about the ultra-secret surveillance going on.
He's on thin ice here, but he can make it out.