Mike is completely right to point out that Sen. Hatch’s comment that “Congress should not condone oversight through litigation” is absurd. Judicial scrutiny of executive branch activities is precisely what the Founders had in mind when they set up three branches of government, and the courts were doing exactly what they were designed to do.
But I also want to point out another absurd thing about Hatch’s statement: even if we granted that oversight-through-litigation isn’t the way to go, shouldn’t he be putting forward some other oversight mechanism? Like a warrant requirement, for example? Or aggressive Congressional hearings? One can imagine taking this kind of argument seriously if the opponents of the lawsuits were putting forward some other mechanism for holding the government and the phone companies accountable for their actions. But as far as I can tell, the Republicans, along with a depressing number of Democrats, are utterly uninterested in any kind of oversight at all, whether it comes from the legislative or judicial branches. The goal isn’t to replace “oversight through litigation” with oversight through some other, more effective process. The goal is to avoid having to do any oversight at all.