Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Not a Surprise

From the New York Times:

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.

Some pundits are surprised that Ms. Wilson would raise concerns about the eavesdropping. Not me. Having lived in her district I know she’s a tolerable moderate; a requirement in New Mexico, especially representing the colorful mixture of urban liberals, retirees, and the native population in and around Albuquerque. In practical terms she’s in a tight race against a well-known and popular Democratic opponent, Patricia Madrid. Taking on the Bush administration could be seen as a smart move in political terms and — surprise — she might even believe that warrantless spying is wrong.