Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hoekstra Told Bush That Keeping Some Intelligence Programs From Congress May Be Illegal

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, discovered some spy programs that had been kept secret from the appropriate congressional panels. Hoekstra--a strong ally of the White House--was concerned enough that he warned President Bush by letter that this may amount to a violation of law.

The letter from Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan ... did not specify the intelligence activities that he believed had been hidden from Congress.

But Mr. Hoekstra, who was briefed on and supported the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, clearly was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed...

A copy of the four-page letter dated May 18, which has not been previously disclosed, was obtained by The New York Times.

"I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed," Mr. Hoesktra wrote. "If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

He added: "The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play Twenty Questions to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution." ...

A spokesman for Mr. Hoekstra, Jamal D. Ware, said he could not discuss the activities allegedly withheld from Congress. But he said that Mr. Hoekstra remained adamant that no intelligence programs could be hidden from oversight committees....

Mr. Hoekstra's blunt letter is evidence of a rift between the White House and House Republican leaders over the administration's perceived indifference to Congressional oversight and input on intelligence matters. Mr. Hoekstra wrote that he had shared his complaints with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, and that the speaker "concurs with my concerns." ...

"I think the executive branch has been insufficiently forthcoming on a number of important programs," Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico, said in an interview. She would not discuss any programs on which the committee had not been briefed, but she said that in the Bush administration, "there's a presumption that if they don't tell anybody, a problem may get better or it will solve itself." ...

American intelligence agencies routinely conduct many secret programs, but under the National Security Act, the agencies are required to keep the Congressional intelligence committees "fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities." Even in the case of especially sensitive covert actions, the law requires briefings for at least the leaders from both parties of the committees and the House and Senate....

(T)he assertion that other intelligence activities had been hidden from Congress is particularly surprising coming from Mr. Hoekstra, who defended the administration's limited briefings on the N.S.A. program against Democratic criticism.

Hoekstra's Letter to Bush (pdf)

One really has to wonder what kind of secret programs could be underway which could be so egregious that even Rep. Hoekstra would find them objectionable.


Blogger DrewL said...

Thanks to another "whistleblower", another new program was identified, and clearly it was one of significance that wasn't known to the HEAD OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, who just happens to be a Republican. How egregious is that?! And how many more of these are operating in the shadows? How many more "whistleblowers" does it take to lay them bare, at least for Congress to see?

It does make one wonder what this latest program may be. If it's sufficiently onerous to raise the ire of a congressional Republican leader, it must be pretty suspect. Think we'll ever find out what it was/is?

On the flip side, is it possible that this is simply posturing by Republican members of Congress, trying to show that they're being tough vs. an increasingly unpopular president in advance of mid-term elections? Anything is possible.

7/09/2006 6:55 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


Since the whistleblower went to Hoekstra instead of a Democratic member of the committee, and Hoekstra (or a staffer with his permission) leaked his letter to Bush, I am beginning to think this is less about an intrusive civil-rights violating program, and more like a program that a conservative lawmaker would disapprove of.

Indeed, reports are saying that part of Hoekstra's complaint concerns the appointment of Stephen Kappes as number two at CIA. Hoekstra has long believed that Kappes undermines President Bush.

7/10/2006 8:05 AM  

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