[Yoo's memo is] a dense read and a terrifying piece of legal contortionism, but it basically says that the president has unlimited powers to fight terrorism. He can spy on anyone, arrest anyone, and kidnap anyone and ship him to another country ... merely on the suspicion that he might be a terrorist. And according to the memo, this power lasts until there is no more terrorism in the world.
This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don't use that term lightly; the very definition of a dictatorship is a system that puts a ruler above the law. In the weeks after 9/11, while America and the world were grieving, Bush built a legal rationale for a dictatorship. Then he immediately started using it to avoid the law.
This is, fundamentally, why this issue crossed political lines in Congress. If the president can ignore laws regulating surveillance and wiretapping, why is Congress bothering to debate reauthorizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act? Any debate over laws is predicated on the belief that the executive branch will follow the law.
And isn't it nice that the New York Times sat on this story for a full year before publishing it? They knew about this before the election! And earlier this month, when they finally decided to run the story (and only decided to do so to avoid being scooped by a book by one of their own reporters!):
On Dec 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president's desperation. [...] Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story -- which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year -- because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker.