The New York Times reports today that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) wrote a “sharply worded letter” to his ally President Bush in May stating that the “U.S. Congress should not have to play Twenty Questions to get information that it deserves under the U.S. Constitution.” Hoekstra appeared on Fox News this morning and said he wrote the letter because he “wanted to reinforce to the President…by law the requirement that they keep the legislative branch informed of what they are doing.”
Hoekstra debunked the administration claim that Congress is always kept informed of intelligence programs. Hoekstra revealed that administration whistleblowers have brought to his attention secret programs that Congress should have told about previously, including “at least one significant activity that we had not been briefed on that we have now been briefed on.”
QUESTION: Are you saying that as the chairman of the house intelligence committee that you were not briefed about other secret programs?
HOEKSTRA: Chris, that letter focused on three things that our committee has a passion about. Number one, getting the right people in the right leadership spots in the intelligence community. Second thing is standing up the office of the Director of National Intelligence to make sure that that reform effort moves forward. And the third thing is doing complete and aggressive oversight of all of the programs in the intelligence community. This is actually a case where the whistle blower process was working appropriately. Some people within the intelligence community brought to my attention some programs that they believed we had not been briefed on. They were right. We asked by code name what some of these programs — about some of these programs. We’ve now been briefed on those programs. But I wanted to reinforce to the president and to the executive branch and the intelligence community how important and by law the requirement that they keep the legislative branch informed of what they are doing.
QUESTION: Chairman, the President always says in these cases that congressional leaders, including you as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, are briefed. How do you explain this failure and how seriously do you take it?
HOEKSTRA: Well, I take it very, very seriously. Otherwise, I would not have written the letter to the President. You know, how do you explain it, there are lots of programs going on in the intelligence community. You know, we can’t be briefed on every little thing that they are doing. but in this case, 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, and I want to set the standard there, that it is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing.