... is a phrase that probably stopped making sense when it was revealed that the U.S.A. had abandoned the principles of the Geneva Convention, both in Iraq and on it's own shores.
... or maybe when Jeb's Supreme Court handed W his throne?
i dunno but the phrase is antiquated, irrelevant and invalid anymore. Trust me.
"The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.
"Law" originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Following the letter of the law but not the spirit is also a tactic used by oppressive governments". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law