As you, no doubt, know, chair of the House intelligence committee, key Republican, and overt administration homeboy, Peter Hoekstra, is now outspoken about his disdain for this president's covert intelligence operations. In a letter published in yesterday's New York Times, Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan, complained of being "left in the dark" (WaPo) about policies which this president, and his architects of deception, term "classified," or "unclassified," based on whim, and not on the right of a legislature to oversee a runaway executive branch.
"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 asserts. (WaPo) Further, he states "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." Ay!!!!! After reading this, one wonders if Franz Kafka wrote the Declaration of Independence, and not Thomas Jefferson. When members of Congress are caught tripping over their own feet to get an administration to come clean about illegal, and clandestine, operations performed by this government against its own people, one can only deduce that the concept of checks and balances, too, is now getting music on hold.
But, the larger question is, why didn't anyone grill Attorney-General Gonzales, a few months ago, when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee (SIC), and coyly alluded to other covert surveillance programs? You'll recall that Mr. Gonzales said not once, but several times, words to the effect of "The programs I'm speaking of today" when insisting that surveillance was primarily international. Did the attorney-general have to hit members of the Senate Intelligence Committee over the head, so to speak, with the obvious, that he was only responding to questions that had to do, specifically, with the National Security Agency programs? It is only thanks to the New York Times, and not members of the House or Senate intelligence communities, that we now know the extent of government spying, and that it isn't only the NSA that is involved, but also is the Treasury Department. Where is congressional oversight when we need it most? And for having made the disclosure, the Justice Department aims to prosecute newspapers, editors, and publishers when they ought to be going after those who conceal these illegal operations in defiance of the legislature, and the American people.
Until Representative Hoekstra's letter was published yesterday, the most notable Republican to challenge this president on his secret espionage programs was Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Arlen Specter. To complicate matters more, on June 29th, Hoekstra is said to have written to John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, about an "administration briefing to reporters" (WaPo) which played down the importance of 500 chemical weapon shells reportedly buried by Iranian troops which were uncovered in 2004. The real issue here is not uncovery of the shells, but where in the hell does an administration that dares to play global bully come off telling members of the press what they can, and can not, report. Moreover, where is the intelligence in "national intelligence" that not only strives to keep members of Congress "in the dark," but conceal vital information from the eyes and ears of its citizens.
There is no small irony in the fact that the head of national intelligence, Negroponte, strove to conspire against a free press, and in defiance of the First Amendment, to conceal information from members of the intelligence community, as well as from the taxpayers who pay his salary.
Any arguments in defense of a hyperactive "executive community" are not only specious, but destined to become endangered specious.