Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Republicans Starting to Cave?

Bush may have troubles at home. Conservative Republicans are already worried about the NSA spying case on libertarian grounds. Moderate Republicans are worried on separation of powers grounds. Now the idiot wing is starting to worry on electoral politics grounds.

NYT reports that Heather Wilson (THAT HEATHER WILSON!?!?!?!), chairperson of the House subcommittee that oversees the NSA, has serious concerns. I think most of hers relate to the fact that she's in a tough race, but it's still interesting to see.

A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why.

Ms. Wilson, who was a National Security Council aide in the administration of President Bush's father, is the first Republican on either the House's Intelligence Committee or the Senate's to call for a full Congressional investigation into the program, in which the N.S.A. has been eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of people inside the United States believed to have links with terrorists.

The congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities. Many Republicans have strongly backed President Bush's power to use every tool at his disposal to fight terrorism, but 4 of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced concerns about the program at a hearing where Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified on Monday.

...

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for one, said he considered some of the administration's legal justifications for the program "dangerous" in their implications, and he told Mr. Gonzales that he wanted to work on new legislation that would help those tracking terrorism "know what they can and can't do."

...

The administration, backed by Republican leaders in both houses, has also resisted calls for inquiries by either Congress or an independent investigator.

As for the politics, some Republicans say they are concerned that prolonged public scrutiny of the surveillance program could prove a distraction in this year's midterm Congressional elections, and the administration has worked to contain any damage by aggressively defending the legality of the operation. It has also limited its Congressional briefings on the program's operational details to the so-called Gang of Eight — each party's leaders in the Senate and the House and on the two intelligence committees — and has agreed to full committee briefings only on the legal justifications for the operation, without discussing in detail how the N.S.A. conducts it.

...

Asked whether the White House was concerned about support for the program among Republicans, Dana Perino, a presidential spokeswoman, said: "The terrorist surveillance program is critical to the safety and protection of all Americans, and we will continue to work with Congress. The attorney general testified at length yesterday, and he will return to Capitol Hill twice more before the week ends."

Aides to Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who as chairman of the full House Intelligence Committee is one of the eight lawmakers briefed on the operations of the program, said he could not be reached for comment on whether he would be open to a full inquiry.


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