Monday, July 10, 2006

Congress kept in dark on intel programs

Rep. Pete Hoekstra wrote an angry letter (pdf) to President Bush, complaining that he had just found out about various intelligence programs that the administration hadn't bothered briefing Congress about.

"There was at least one major -- what I consider significant -- activity that we had not been briefed on that we have now been briefed on," Hoekstra said on "Fox News Sunday." "Some people within the intelligence community brought to my attention some programs that they believed we had not been briefed on. They were right."

Hoekstra said the briefings took place after he complained in a May 18 letter to President Bush of hearing about "alleged Intelligence Community activities" not described to committee members in classified briefings. "If these allegations are true," he wrote to Bush, "they may represent a breach of responsibility by the Administration, a violation of law and . . . a direct affront to me and the Members of this committee."

Two things are interesting about this:

1. He's clearly referring to programs other than the ones we already know about. It shouldn't surprise anyone that such programs exist, but it's worth keeping in mind.

2. The administration appears to ignore its duty to inform Congress about intelligence activities on a fairly regular basis. That may be a generalized executive branch habit, not just one peculiar to this administration. But that doesn't make it acceptable.

Congress should not have to find out about briefable activities and then demand briefings; that undermines the whole idea of Congressional oversight. And it's not like this is resolved. Even after receiving the briefings he sought, Hoekstra said he still thinks the administration is not fulfilling its legal obligations to inform Congress.

I agree. But I'm forced to take this with a grain of salt, seeing as how Hoekstra has been acting a bit idiotic of late.

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