The reason that Massaoui's laptop was not wiretapped was a lack of will on the part of former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
In the summer of 2001 US District Judge Royce Lamberth, had a chat with the Justice Department over the way the FBI was misusing wiretap priviledges. After that Ashcroft shut wiretapping down until after 9/11, mostly one can assume, because of his own ties to militias (famously touchy about taps), not because of necessity. We wouldn't want to upset those who can help get us a job if we ever have to leave the cushy one we've got.
Another point is that:
FISA allows a 3 day waiting period before court approval is required to be sought.
First, a lot can be learned within 3 days.
Second, as many had pointed out, there was always the option of going back to Congress and asking for more freedom.
Some feel that if the Bush people had been smart and fair that Frances Townsend would have been Attorney General, not Ashcroft, and in fact she is now employed by the Bush administration, gets a long famously with the president, and maybe even more importantly gets things done. Alas, though she was a Clintonite.
BTW, it was just about the time that Ashcroft shut down FBI wiretapping that he started taking charter flights instead of commercial ones. Seems to me someone knew how important his lack of intestinal fortitude was even then.
Another reason for 911 is that the US had an incompetent FBI chief until the first week of September 2001. The reason that we had an incompetent FBI chief is that when Louis Freeh realized that Clinton was likely to fire him, he went to Congress and cooked up a scheme with the Republicans in charge since 1995.
The deal: Investigations galore against the president and his wife in return for immunity. We saw the rest. At least Freeh worked well with the Republicans of Congress in their impeachment scam. He soaked up those resources of the FBI to focus like a laser beam and any salacious allegation against president. Meanwhile his Republican friends in Congress hinted that any attempt by the president to replace Louis Freeh would bring him down faster than Nixon.
The 911 commission singled out those scandalmongering actions of the Republican controlled Congress in their report.
Mr. Kristol knows that the press ignored that point in the report--apparently worried about offending corporate masters with any detail that might point a finger at Republicans. So, as usual, Mr Kristol, is going to lie and pass out reasons that America has to give up her rights to the Bush administration who had promised fat cats and big business to hand over the keys to the nation in perpetuity through schemes that might have made Nixon blush.
The Bush administration also dismantled a lot of Clinton's safeguards, and didn't even get around to hiring any but a shell of counterterrorist officials until late Spring 2001, though they were warned strongly during the transition about the danger of terrorism.
They also didn't issue warnings to airlines and airports when they knew there was a danger of hijackings in the summer of 2001. Yes, the Bush administration says they did, but the airlines and airports say they didn't. I'd say that except for when dishing out estimated take off and landing times, the airlines have lied to us less than the Bush administration, so I'm taking their word over the ones of the Bush administration.
On the other hand, in December of 1999, the Clinton administration did warn Americans, and even earlier border and custom officials, which is probably why the would be LAX bomber Ressam was caught. And Ressam exposed the other players in the scheme to attack at multiple points at the turn of the millennium.
I guess now, people can see what the Clinton administration was able to do even without the Patriot Act, even with the Republican controlled Congress trying to hamstring him every step of the way.
That's the difference between William Jefferson Clinton and George W. Bush and between their administrations.
BTW, Judge Royce Lamberth was first appointed by President Nixon, and IIRC was appointed to higher positions by Reagan and possibly Clinton, but has done much for Indian rights, harassing the Interior Departments of both the Clinton and the Bush administrations.