The NY Times reports that Heather Wilson (R, NM), chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence (and with direct oversight of the NSA), called for full congressional hearings regarding the NSA spying program:
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 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.
The reason why Ms. Thomas should not be dismissed lightly by Dick Cheney and friends is that she has her national security bona fides. First, she was an Air Force officer and is the only female veteran in Congress. Second, she was a National Security Council aide for the first Pres. Bush. This is a formidable woman who, while a Republican, has an independent streak:
The Times places Wilson’s qualms in the context of growing Republican sentiment calling for review and reform of the NSA program:
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.
A growing number of Republicans have called in recent days for Congress to consider amending federal wiretap law to address the constitutional issues raised by the N.S.A. operation.
My only concern, should congressional Republicans actually persuade the imperial Bushites to come down off their high horse on this issue, is that Congress will basically incorporate warrantless eavesdropping of the type “authorized” by the President into the exiting FISA statutes. Essentially, what could happen is that Bush gets everything he wants AND it’s now declared legal. The reason for my fear is that congressional Democrats have shown no stomach lately for standing up for principles like civil liberties. Because national security is tricky ground for them, they’re liable to withdraw from the field rather than fight for restraint of some of Bush and the spymasters’ worse impulses.
In this most partisan of times, it is rare that a Republican has the gumption to take on her president in the way that Wilson has:
She said she realized that publicizing her concerns over the surveillance program could harm her relations with the administration. “The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too, and I feel strongly about that,” she said.
Good for her. But I’d suggest that she start wearing her Air Force helmet and watch out for “incoming” from the White House. She may be in for a rough ride from the Cheneyites.