Panel to Call for Review of Wiretapping of Scholar(Dem rat stands up for CONVICTED terrorist)
Panel to Call for Review of Wiretapping of Scholar
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and JAMES RISEN
WASHINGTON — A Congressional oversight panel plans to ask the National Security Agency to start an investigation into new evidence that the agency illegally wiretapped a Muslim scholar in Northern Virginia and concealed the eavesdropping during a 2005 trial in which the scholar was convicted on terrorism charges.
Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said in an interview that he planned to ask the inspector general of the N.S.A. to open what would be the first formal investigation by the agency into whether its eavesdropping program had improperly interfered with an American’s right to a fair trial.
Mr. Holt said he was responding to new evidence presented to him and other Congressional leaders by the Muslim scholar’s lawyer indicating that the Bush administration tried to hide the full extent of the government’s illegal spying in the criminal case.
If the N.S.A. inspector general begins an inquiry, analysts said, that could also signal a new willingness by the agency, under a new administration, to examine its own operations in the eavesdropping program.
President-elect Barack Obama was a critic of the Bush administration’s domestic spying program while he was in the Senate and on the campaign trail, and experts on intelligence matters are waiting to see whether he takes action early in his administration to rein in the program.
“I find the allegations troubling,” Mr. Holt said. His select intelligence panel was created last year by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations to provide more comprehensive Congressional oversight of the intelligence community.
The scholar, Ali al-Timimi, once a spiritual leader in Northern Virginia and described by prosecutors as a “rock star” in the Islamic fundamentalist world, is now serving a life sentence in federal