Think Progress has awesome information about FISA.
The NSA “already had the capacity to read your mail and your e-mail and listen to your telephone conversations. All it had to do was obtain a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The burden of proof for obtaining a warrant was relaxed a bit after 9/11, but even before the attacks the court hardly ever rejected requests.” Indeed, from 1979 to 2002, the FISA court issued 15,264 surveillance warrants. Not a single warrant application was rejected.
Not one single warrant application was ever rejected, out of over 15,000 requests. I'd like to chip in to help buy the new rubber stamp.
Technically, it leaves out a small detail. Legal Times notes that there was one rejection, of sorts; the court found it deficient, and it was subsequently withdrawn.
The FISA review court was created by Congress along with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 1978 to authorize search and surveillance warrants for foreign intelligence targets. The review court has never convened because the lower court, known as the FISA court, has never turned down a government surveillance request. The court has approved approximately 13,000 applications since its inception. And just once, in 1997, the government withdrew a request that the court had found deficient.
And keep in mind, the court need not approve the warrant BEFORE spying begins. The Attorney General can issue warrants and not get approval for up to 72 hours.
Again, there's simply no reason for this end run around the law for terrorism reasons. Bush can only be circumventing the legal process because his domestic espionage was for illegitimate reasons, such as spying on political "dissidents" - you know, like those unAmerican democrats.