Inspired by this Atrios post, here's a chronology of technically true but misleading statements by President Bush and his administration that imply court orders are required for all government wiretaps:
President Bush -- April 19, 2004:
For years, law enforcement used so-called roving wire taps to investigate organized crime. You see, what that meant is if you got a wire tap by court order -- and, by the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example.
President Bush -- April 20, 2004:
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
President Bush -- June 9, 2005:
One tool that has been especially important to law enforcement is called a roving wiretap. Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge, and they have been used for years to catch drug dealers and other criminals. Yet, before the Patriot Act, agents investigating terrorists had to get a separate authorization for each phone they wanted to tap. That means terrorists could elude law enforcement by simply purchasing a new cell phone. The Patriot Act fixed the problem by allowing terrorism investigators to use the same wiretaps that were already being using against drug kingpins and mob bosses.
White House fact sheet - June 9, 2005:
The Patriot Act extended the use of roving wiretaps, which were already permitted against drug kingpins and mob bosses, to international terrorism investigations. They must be approved by a judge. Without roving wiretaps, terrorists could elude law enforcement by simply purchasing a new cell phone.
President Bush -- July 20, 2005:
The Patriot Act helps us defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all Americans. The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, or to track his calls, or to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of the tools we're talking about. And they are fully consistent with the Constitution of the United States.
White House fact sheet -- July 20, 2005:
The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Law enforcement officers must seek a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, track his calls, or search his property. These strict standards are fully consistent with the Constitution. Congress also oversees the application of the Patriot Act, and in more than three years there has not been a single verified abuse.
President Bush -- December 10, 2005:
The Patriot Act is helping America defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all our people. The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Under the act, law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone or search his property. Congress also oversees our use of the Patriot Act. Attorney General Gonzales delivers regular reports on the Patriot Act to the House and the Senate.
Technically true but misleading claims are the signature tactic of this administration, so it's not surprising to see them pop up again here. All I can say is we told you so.
Update 12/20: As The New Republic's Michael Crowley and commenters have pointed out, some of these statements may be completely false. That's definitely a possibility, though most or all of them could be parsed as technically accurate in reference to the Patriot Act, as I note in a comment below.
Ultimately, however, semantic debates of this sort are a diversion, and that's why I avoided the issue in the post. We didn't use the word "lie" to describe any of Bush's statements in All the President's Spin because it relies on unknowable information about intent, and bogs us down in arguments about whether statements are completely false. The same applies here. What matters is that the President made statements to the American people that were demonstrably misleading. Whether they were full-blown "lies" or not is irrelevant.