Prominent members of Congress are angry that the Bush administration waited seven months before revealing crucial information about the Syrian facility that Israel destroyed in September.
It wasn’t until last week that administration officials briefed members of Congress and confirmed that the facility was a nuclear plant being constructed with participation from North Korea.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said officials at the briefing did “make the case that this was, in fact, a nuclear weapons facility.”
And Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the highest ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Blitzer:
“I think this points out the problem that we have. You know, we had two and a half hours of briefings on Thursday morning. This is the reason why the administration should have briefed us -- at least the Intelligence Committees -- seven months ago. Because there is a lot of other questions that are out there, questions about how close was this to being operational? Who funded this for Syria? How close was the North Korean/Syrian cooperation in this? And where else might North Korea have been involved in proliferation?”
Asked if he has answers to any of those questions, Hoekstra said: “Not at this point … If we would have gotten this information seven months ago to the full Intelligence Committee, we could have spent the last seven months going through and peeling back the onion and having a lot more information than what we have at this point.
“We're now going to have to start with the information we got on Thursday and now start moving forward. We should have been doing this months ago.”
Sen. Feinstein agreed with Hoekstra, and said the information about the Syrian facility should have been presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“That's why the IAEA is there,” she told Blitzer. “And by not sharing information immediately, what we do is destroy their verification potential as an independent, outside agency…”
BLITZER: “Are you saying, Senator Feinstein, that over these seven months since the Israelis knocked out that facility, whatever it was, the administration didn't share any of this evidence with you as a member of the Intelligence Committee?”
FEINSTEIN: “That's essentially correct. And the point is then when they do, it makes us very suspicious as to why are they doing it right now?”
BLITZER: “Well, why are they doing it? Why are they doing it now, Senator?”
FEINSTEIN: “Well, I think they're sending some kind of a message, which candidly I don't understand, to North Korea, and I think they're also one way or another influencing an agreement with Syria and Israel. And to me, the timing is very suspect.”
Asked if he had been presented with any information about North Korea’s possible proliferation with another country in addition to Syrian, Hoekstra replied:
“We haven't been able to dig down into that issue. And that's what we should have been doing over the last seven or eight months.”
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