Wiretap Furor Widens Republican Divide

“President Bush’s claim that he has a legal right to eavesdrop on some U.S. citizens without court approval has widened an ideological gap within his party.

On one side is the national-security camp, made even more numerous by loyalty to a wartime president. On the other are the small-government civil libertarians who have long held a privileged place within the Republican Party but whose ranks have ebbed since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The surveillance furor, at least among some conservatives, also has heightened worries that the party is straying from many of its core principles the longer it remains in control of both the White House and Congress.

Conservatives have knocked heads in recent months over the administration’s detainment and treatment of terrorist suspects, and as recently as yesterday over provisions of the Patriot Act. Strains also have grown among conservatives over government spending and whether to loosen U.S. immigration rules.

But the current debate over using the National Security Agency for domestic surveillance — which the administration has defended as legal and necessary — hit a rawer nerve because it pits national-security concerns against a core constitutional right, in this case, the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.” (Wall Street Journal)