Charges that the CIA hacked into the secured computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee and stole documents on the agency's controversial interrogation program smack of continued abuse by the Obama administration, former House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax.
"This president has abused the powers of the White House, of the executive branch, taken the executive branch into areas where it has not gone," Hoekstra said in an exclusive interview. "This is one more example. It's an arrogant attitude.
"It's saying: 'We're the executive branch. If we want to spy on Congress, we will spy on Congress. We may use the Justice Department to intimidate Congress.
"I'm glad to see that Congress has the backbone to fight back and to fight back hard," Hoekstra said Tuesday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's chairwoman, charged on Tuesday that the CIA had removed hundreds of pages of documents it had submitted in the panel's investigation into its now-defunct detention and interrogation program.
The breach occurred in 2010, the California Democrat said. The program began in 2002 and became public four years later. She said the CIA's move might have violated the separation of powers between the branches of government and might be a move to intimidate legislators in their efforts to hold the CIA accountable.
"I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution," Feinstein said
on the Senate floor.
CIA Director John Brennan denied Feinstein's accusations.
Hoekstra served eight House terms as a Republican before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, and currently serves on the advisory board for Lignet.com.
In his Newsmax interview, he charged that "the problem with too many people in the intelligence community is that they think congressional oversight is optional. They think that providing information to Congress is not a requirement."
He called the CIA breach "absolutely outrageous. There's a separation of powers here. It's totally inappropriate."
"There's a sensitive relationship between the intelligence community and the committees that do the oversight," Hoekstra added. "This fractures it."
He called Feinstein's efforts to hold the spy agency accountable "refreshing," adding that, "with the CIA looking into computers that the Senate staff was using, this gets to be real hardball. That's a hardball thrown by the intelligence community."
"Dianne Feinstein has every right, and my full support, to throw a high inside fastball to the CIA and say: 'Hey, back off. Oversight is not optional. Providing information to Congress is not optional. Spying or trying to get insights by tracking my staff's computers — I'm sorry, there's no room for that at all.'"
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