Congressional probe of NSA surveillance may not happen afterall

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that the WH lobbying campaign has swayed a few key GOP lawmakers in Congress to the point where they are reconsidering whether not an Congressional probe is necessary:

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel — made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats — was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

They attributed the shift to last week’s closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. “It’s been a full-court press,” said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background — as did several others for this story — because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees’ work.

Lawmakers cite senators such as Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to illustrate the administration’s success in cooling congressional zeal for an investigation. On Dec. 20, she was among two Republicans and two Democrats who signed a letter expressing “our profound concern about recent revelations that the United States Government may have engaged in domestic electronic surveillance without appropriate legal authority.” The letter urged the Senate’s intelligence and judiciary committees to “jointly undertake an inquiry into the facts and law surrounding these allegations.”

In an interview yesterday, Snowe said, “I’m not sure it’s going to be essential or necessary” to conduct an inquiry “if we can address the legislative standpoint” that would provide oversight of the surveillance program. “We’re learning a lot and we’re going to learn more,” she said.

Maybe they’ve come to the conclusions that the ‘whistleblower(s)’ and ‘concerned’ Democrats like Jay Rockefeller in this case were doing little more than just blowing smoke? It should be noted that the more moderate Senators like Snowe generally stick to their middle-of-the-road guns and don’t give in to WH pressure, so this is a pretty significant change in attitude on the part of Snowe (and also Hagel).

Captain Ed speculates on other reasons:

Another reason for the ebbing of outrage by Congress, although unspoken and unreported by Babington, has to be the reaction of the American people. Having been informed that the administration authorized warrantless surveillance on international communications between people with ties to al-Qaeda and people in the US, the American electorate … yawned.

Yep. This poll is a strong indicator of that.

No doubt the usual suspects are blowing a gasket over this story this morning and will be fuming that their favorite moderates look like they are “caving.” Awww.

Read more commentary via AJ Strata

Related: The Media Lies blog examines whether or not the courts have found warrantless surveillance of US citizens is sometimes permissible (thanks to ST reader Fat Tone for the tip)

Prior Toldjah So posts on the NSA surveillance ‘scandal’:

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