Explanation # 1, which is somewhat plausible, is that people like Dick Cheney have such a contempt for the law, and for anything that would compel them to show respect for anything other than their own will, that even though the surveillance was entirely justifiable and WOULD have been permitted by the court, the regime preferred the arrogant freedom of just doing what they wanted. ("Badge? Badge? I don't gotta show you no stinkin' badge!")
But if the crimes do not have this kind of psychological, almost adolescent level of explanation, then the other most likely explanation is this: THE REGIME WANTED TO DO WIRETAPPING THAT HAD NO JUSTIFICATION, AND THAT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PERMITTED IF SUBMITTED TO THE COURT.
I would bet 80-20 that if we knew fully what they were doing and why, we would find that --as with the firings of the U.S. Attorneys-- we would find that the crimes were an integral part of the overall attempt of the regime to extend and perpetuate its own power, at the expense of our democracy; I would bet that they were using wiretapping --as did Nixon before them-- as part of their war against their political opposition.
But it is the possible explanation of the torture --which has recently emerged-- that seems to have more potential to be a powerful transformer of the political climate. That's because (aside from torture being at present the more active line of revelation) in this case it would be the American people themselves, not the political opposition, who would have been the ultimate objects and victims of the Bushite malfeasance.
A potential answer that represents a potential bombshell has begun to emerge in the aftermath of the recently released torture memos.
As to this question of why they would pursue a practice that, aside from being a crime, the experts said doesn't work, again, two possible answers seem to present themselves.
The less malignant answer is once again simple Bushite arrogance: these people (and once more, the lead figure here might well be Dick Cheney) assume that they know better.
What makes this answer plausible is that they showed the same arrogance on various other questions-- e.g. ignoring what the experts tried to tell them prior to the invasion of Iraq about what is required to prepare for the occupation of another country.
Repeatedly, the Bushites showed themselves deaf to other people's knowledge --generally with disastrous results-- so perhaps they just dismissed the views of anyone who did not share their gut feeling that torture is a good way to get people to tell you all they know.
An examination of the history of the practice of waterboarding --an account heard on Olbermann and Maddow on that week of April 20-- shows that the U.S. military adopted these methods as a training device, to prepare U.S. soldiers for the kinds of interrogation techniques employed in the Korean War by the Chinese Communists. And the Chinese used them specifically as a means of producing FALSE CONFESSIONS.
The unreliability of what people will say when being waterboarded is not a problem-- not if your purpose is to get them to declare falsely.