Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra says he supports Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who this week accused the CIA of spying on the committee.
applaud her. As the former chairman of Intel, getting information out of the intelligence community is very, very difficult. They sometimes think that complying with congressional requests for information, that's optional. It's absolutely mandatory," Hoekstra, who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, told Newsmax TV's J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Wednesday.
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The Michigan Republican, who represented his state's 2nd Congressional District from 1993 to 2011, said he never thought the CIA was watching his committee but frequently suspected the agency wasn't being fully transparent.
"I'll give you one example. You may remember back in 2001, I'm brand-new on the Intelligence Committee, and there's a missionary plane that was shot down in Peru. A couple of people killed, a mom and her daughter are killed. Those are my constituents.
"So we call in the CIA and say, 'What happened?' And they said, 'Well, you know, this is our drug interdiction program. Whenever there's a shoot-down we go through this very elaborate seven-, eight-, nine-step process. We've received the process and we followed every step of the process. It was just a tragic mistake,'" he recalled.
"We had to come back and say, 'Is there a video?' They're kind of like, 'Well, yeah.' 'Can we see it?' We finally see it. They didn't follow one of the steps. So, at the beginning of the process they were misleading Congress.
"Finally we got it all, but the only reason we got all the information is we kept pushing, pushing and pushing, and that's what Feinstein's doing. And Sen. Feinstein was so frustrated she took the extraordinary step of going to the floor of the House and calling the CIA out. It's appropriate, and it's one of the few tools she has."
Asked how politicized the Intelligence Committee can become in either the House or the Senate, Hoekstra replied, "During my tenure, 2004, 2005, all the leaks, enhanced interrogations, renditions, the NSA program revealed over a period of time. I'm not sure where they all came from, but they obviously politicized national security. It hurt national security, it hurt our effort to fight terrorism. It became very, very politicized."
Hoekstra, who serves on the advisory board for Lignet.com,
instead advocated a bipartisan approach to intelligence issues.
"Republicans and Democrats ought to agree finally. Some of our Democrats are finally calling out this administration for abuses of executive power. If the CIA actually went into computers that were used by Senate staffers and did an investigation and a tracking of what they looked at, maybe what they copied and what they printed, that's absolutely outrageous. The CIA has no responsibility or authority to do that, and it's very frightening. It's much scarier than what the NSA has ever done," he said.
If the allegations are true, a great deal of damage has been done, Hoekstra cautioned.
"You got the damage and the relationship between the CIA and the congressional overseers. The CIA has to just be fully compliant and give them all the information that they have. This really tarnishes the reputation one more time of the intelligence community and feeds the fears of the American people that we've got an intelligence community that's rather than focused overseas on our enemy is actually focused on the American people," he said.
Hoekstra does not give CIA Director John Brennan high marks for his performance, saying:
"John Brennan does not like Congress. If you had given me a list of four or five CIA directors — George Tenet, Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, and John Brennan— and said, all right, which of these do you think would stiff Congress and might even go as far as authorizing their staff to look at congressional computers and might file a referral to the Justice Department? It wouldn't take long. You'd say, uh, that's John Brennan."
As for whether Brennan should tender his resignation, Hoekstra said:
"Let's get to all the facts, but if John Brennan authorized his staff to go and take a look at Senate staffers' computers and if he instructed the CIA folks to make a referral to the Justice Department for criminal investigation of Senate staffers, you're very, very close to the point where John Brennan has abused his powers and abused — remember, it's his job to provide information."
"The only oversight that we have of this very powerful capability are the 15, 16 people in the Senate and then 24 people in the House, that's it. You've got to be transparent with this very small group of people," he said.
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