Saturday, July 08, 2006

Republican Chairman of House Intelligence Committee: "The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play Twenty Questions..."

The NYT, just moments ago, posted this story on their website disclosing that the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, has questioned the legality of certain Bush administration covert intelligence programs. One reason that this is such an extraoridinary developmnet is that Hoekstra has been considered an administration ally and point man in the past in defending the President's intelligence programs and policies. It's also significant that his comments are much sharper than anything said in the past by the committee's Democratic vice chairwoman, Jane Harmon of California.

To read the full article, click here.

Below are some excerpts fom the article.

WASHINGTON, July 8 — In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.

Rep. Hoekstra's Letter to President Bush (pdf)

The letter from Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, 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.

Recently, after the harsh criticism from Mr. Hoekstra, intelligence officials have appeared at two closed committee briefings to answer questions from the chairman and other members. The briefings appear to have eased but not erased the concerns of Mr. Hoekstra and other lawmakers about whether the administration is sharing information on all of its intelligence operations.

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."

Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, declined to comment on the concerns raised by Mr. Hoekstra but said that "we will continue to work closely with the chairman and otherCongressional leaders on important national security issues."

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