Hoekstra: Intel Committees Not Briefed

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) listens during a taping of "Meet the Press" at the NBC studios February 12, 2006 in Washington, DC. Hoekstra discussed issues on the legitimacy of U.S. President George W. Bush's eavesdropping program.
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The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says the Bush administration may have broken the law by keeping secrets over intelligence matters from the panel in charge.

Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra says the briefings are required by law, and the failure to get one may have broken the law.

Hoekstra says he wants to set the standard that no president or anyone else in the executive branch can fail to keep intelligence committees fully informed.

A spokesman for Mr. Bush's National Security Council says the administration "will continue to work closely with the chairman and other congressional leaders on important national security issues."

"We can't be briefed on every little thing that they are doing," Hoekstra said. "But in this case, there was at least one major — what I consider significant activity that we have not been briefed on. I want to set the standard there that 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," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

Hoekstra complained to President Bush in a letter dated May 18 that was disclosed in Sunday's New York Times. The letter did not specify which programs he was referring to, the Times reported.

The committees were later briefed, Hoekstra said.

Mr. Bush's administration has come under criticism for the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program and the Treasury Department's monitoring of international banking information.

Many Democrats and civil liberties groups have alleged that the administration ignores laws involving due process and congressional notification in conducting surveillance and intelligence programs as part of the war on terror, the Washington Post noted.

Today, a federal court in Detroit will hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the National Security Agency (NSA). The suit charges that the NSA surveillance program violates Americans' rights to free speech and privacy.

In his letter, Hoekstra said the failure to brief the intelligence committees "may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of 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."

Hoekstra has been critical of the administration before. In his letter, he also objected to the president's nominees for the director and deputy director of the CIA. He also complains about the role of the director of national intelligence — a position created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.