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Security Politics

The Washington Post says the arrest of a top aide to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr comes "as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, is under pressure from Washington to demonstrate that he's unafraid to take on Sadr and other Shiite militias."

Already in the Middle East meeting with Arab leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a surprise stop in Iraq today to meet with American and British military officials.

The Chicago Tribune says that "with opinion polls registering opposition at a ratio of 2-1 to the president's plan for more U.S. troops in Iraq, many Democrats now are looking well beyond the mere symbolism of a non-binding resolution and proposing ways to gain more control over war spending."

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D), who has voted with Republicans against troop withdrawal in the past, said yesterday that he cannot support the troop increase and that he will "no longer acquiesce to a failed and tragic military exercise in Iraq," the Des Moines Register says. "It was somewhat of a shift for Boswell, a political moderate who is a member of the House intelligence committee and has not been as critical in his remarks about the war as some Democrats."

The New York Times covers the grilling AG Alberto Gonzales received from lawmakers, the day after the Bush Administration announced it was placing its warrantless surveillance program under court supervision. "A central question is whether the court will approve eavesdropping case by case, its traditional practice, or will it issue broader orders that provide additional government leeway in selecting targets." Also: "Some lawmakers wanted to know why the administration had waited five years from the start of the program to put it under the supervision of the secret intelligence court."

The Los Angeles Times adds that the Administration refused to provide details of how the surveillance program would work, "triggering a fresh round of complaints and suspicions from Democrats about what the administration was doing." 
 
Per NBC's Mike Viqueira, the kickoff to Rep. Henry Waxman's (D) long-awaited investigation into contracting waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq appears to be underway. Waxman's committee says it has invited three people -- including Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer -- to testify at a hearing the week of February 6.