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.
There are multiple layers of potential concern about the NSA wiretap program. One is simply that it breaks the law — regardless of whether it serves a useful anti-terrorism purpose or whether the administration is using the tool in good faith (i.e., not using it to snoop on political enemies or something like that). That seems to me to be close to an open and shut case. And to me at least it’s the most important issue since it goes to the heart of our republican system of government.
But if the Times characterization of Wilson’s position is accurate, she’s saying more than that. She seems to suspect that the administration may be using the program for nefarious or inappropriate purposes.
Why would she be doing this? You can’t read these tea leaves without knowing about Wilson’s political situation.
Heather Wilson is a Republican from a tenuous swing district centered around Albuquerque. (Today her opponent released a poll showing her tied in the low-40s in her race for reelection.) Every position Wilson takes is finely calibrated to keep her politically well-positioned since she’ll probably never have a truly easy race in her district. You may remember that early last year we had some fun trying to get her to actually come clean on whether she would reveal her position on phasing out Social Security.
Is this just a decision on the merits in her role as subcommittee chair? Or does she have s read on the politics going into November?