Hoekstra's Letter and the Russ Tice Connection [Stephen Spruiell]
The New York Times reports that Rep. Peter Hoekstra is concerned that his committee (House Intelligence) has not been briefed on all the administration's intelligence-gathering efforts. Hoekstra wrote:
I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed... 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.
We should, I suppose, consider ourselves lucky that the NYT didn't find out which programs Hoekstra was referring to and splash their details all over the front page. But I keep wondering: Are these the alleged "special access programs" that disgruntled ex-NSA employee Russ Tice told the Senate Armed Services Committee about last May — at around the same time that Hoekstra sent his letter? On May 12th, Congress Daily
reported (via Nexis):
A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said Thursday he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens. Russell Tice, who worked on what are known as "special access programs," has wanted to meet in a closed session with members of Congress and their staff since President Bush announced in December that he had secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without a court order. In an interview late Thursday, Tice said the Senate Armed Services Committee finally asked him to meet next week in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.
Tice — who claims he was a source for the NYT's NSA eavesdropping story — had tried to meet with Hoekstra's committee earlier this year, but was told by the NSA that the committee members lacked the proper clearances to be briefed on the specific programs Tice wished to discuss. Because the programs in question are controlled by DoD, Tice testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee instead, which so far has not taken any action regarding Tice's testimony.
Is it just a coincidence that Hoekstra wrote his letter to President Bush so soon after Tice started talking about these programs? And what are we to make of Tice himself, who was fired from the NSA after he repeatedly accused a co-worker of being a Chinese spy and was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation that found him to be paranoid?
Another hypothesis is that Hoekstra is raising the issue of secret programs as a pretext to vent unrelated complaints about the staff shakeup at the CIA. Tom Maguire digs this story out from where the NYT tried to bury it.
Whatever the case may be, it's of concern that one of the administration's closest allies on intelligence-gathering is suddenly starting to rebel. Is this just about the firing of Porter Goss and the hiring of Stephen Kappes? Or is this in some way related to weird whistleblower Russ Tice? And if so, is there anything to the claim that the administration has improperly withheld information from the intelligence committees, given that the NSA directed Tice to the armed services committees instead?
UPDATE: Allah has the video of Hoekstra's appearance on Fox News Sunday. He also links to this post and asks, "if [the problem was that the intel committee didn’t have the necessary clearances], then why, according to the Times, did intel officials go ahead and brief the committee on the programs after Hoekstra found out about them and complained?"
Good question. Maybe Hoekstra made enough of a stink that he persuaded them. My point is that perhaps the intel committee was not briefed because the NSA believed in good faith that it was a matter for the armed services committees. If the programs are the ones that Russ Tice testified about (and Hoekstra made several statements on FNS about "the whistleblower process" leading me to believe that they are), then we know that the NSA believed them to be a matter for the armed services committees. Hoekstra obviously disagreed, and perhaps his arguments were persuasive.
I'm just theorizing, of course. This could turn out to be way off base. But the timing of Tice's testimony and Hoekstra's letter made me think there might be some connection, especially given Tice's previous attempts to testify before Hoekstra's committee and the NSA's refusal to allow him.
07/09 05:01 PMShare