In what can only be described as a Constitutional officer seeming to think about actually doing his duty, Pete Hoekstra sent a confidential, and thus possibly somewhat candid, letter to President Bush. (Download 20060709hoekstra.pdf)
Hoekstra, who is the chair of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed concern about several issues, but the one burning Bush’s nose hairs is that Hoekstra learned through whistleblowers in the CIA that the Administration had carried out at least one major covert program without informing Congress; specifically, without informing Hoekstra. Hoekstra doesn’t appriciate it.
The operations referred to are still confidential and undisclosed, but it is not the NSA wiretaps or the financial transaction monitoring; it is something else, and is so secret that apparently the White House didn’t want to share even with a reliable ally like Hoekstra, even though legally obligated to do so by the National Security Act.
That’s actually a little frightening. Think about that. The White House did brief selected members of Congress about the NSA monitoring program, despite the fact that it clearly violated FISA. Whatever this is, the White House didn’t even dare tell the Chairman of the House Committee. And as soon as the Chairman got clued in by a whistleblower (whom many Republicans want to strip of legal protection in national security matters) he said this to the White House:
"I have learned of some alleged Intelligence Community activities about which our committee has not been briefed. In the next few days I will be formally requesting information on these activities. If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the Administration, a violation of 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. I strongly encourage you to direct the elements of the Intelligence Community to fulfill their legal responsibility to keep the Intelligence Committees fully briefed on their activities. The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play ‘Twenty Questions’ to get the information that it deserves under the Constitution."
Oh, snap! Guess who just got himself removed from the White House Christmas card list?
Just to put things in context, Hoekstra earlier in the letter expressed reservations about a CIA nomination by the President because he felt that the nominee may be too closely associated with people in the CIA who worked to discredit Bush’s cooked case for Iraqi WMD. Hoestra is concerned about what he calls ‘politicization’, but he means the opposite of what normal folks mean – bringing to bear political pressure to skew intelligence estimates. Hoekstra is concerned that Bush’s pick may not sufficiently toe the line and will act too independendently.
Hoekstra is no enlightened Republican, he’s as ‘movement conservative’ as they get: yet even he’s so chessed about this that he put the slap down on Bush. Even given Hoekstra’s inclination to follow blindly the Administration’s orders, this incident has him invoking Congressional power as a co-equal branch and using the words ‘violation of law’. That should make your blood run cold. It does mine.