Hoekstra’s anticipated departure from Congress and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in two years won’t be soon enough for some based on his troubling relationship with intelligence.
In June 2006, when it was reported that chemical munition shells had been uncovered in Iraq Rep. Hoekstra and Sen. Rick Santorum, who was fighting to retain his Senate seat, triumphantly announced that the long sought after WMD had been discovered thus vindicating the Bush administration and Santorum - a fierce advocate of the Iraq invasion.
Turned out the munitions had been buried during the eight-year war with Iran - a war that ended in 1988. The military announced that indeed these shells had been uncovered but the chemical agent was no longer active. Not even the Bush administration - nor the CIA for that matter - made any attempt to claim these long-forgotten and inactive munitions were the smoking gun proof of an active WMD program in Iraq.Hoekstra then set his sites on Iran. In August 2006 Rep. Hoekstra, then chair of the House Intelligence Committee, released a report titled Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States.
One of the first critics of the report was former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern. He charged that Hoekstra was "hyping up the Iran threat." McGovern, no stranger to intelligence estimates having chaired NIE’s during his tenure at the CIA, called the report a "pseudo-estimate."From Ray McGovern’s August 2006 article, "The paper amounts to a pre-emptive strike on what's left of the Intelligence Community, usurping its prerogative to provide policymakers with estimates on front-burner issues – in this case, Iran's weapons of mass destruction and other threats. The Senate had already requested a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. But Hoekstra is first out of the starting gate. Professional intelligence officers were ‘as a courtesy’ invited to provide input to Hoekstra's report."
Noting the title of the report and the go-it-alone approach, McGovern asserted, "The challenge set before the Intelligence Community is to get religion, climb aboard, and 'recognize' Iran as a strategic threat. But alas, the community has not yet been fully purged of recalcitrant intelligence analysts who reject a 'faith-based' approach to intelligence and hang back from the altar call to revealed truth. Hence, the statutory intelligence agencies cannot be counted on to come to politically correct conclusions regarding the strategic threat from Iran."
Two and a half weeks later, the Washington Post received a copy of a letter sent by officials at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) addressed to Rep. Hoesktra complaining angrily that several of the statements in the report were "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated."
The Washington Post article reported, "The agency noted five major errors in the committee's 29-page report, which said Iran's nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown."A year later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published Iran Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. When the key judgments of the NIE were released in early December 2007, it turned the rhetoric of the Bush administration and politicians like Hoekstra on its head when it reported with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
Following its release, Hoekstra lashed out claiming "The intelligence community has proven over past five to seven years that they can't get analysis right. They can't build satellites. They can't keep a secret. And now they expect us to say, great work? This is dead nuts!" He later called the subsequent briefing by the 16-member intelligence agencies "pathetic."
Fast forward to December 2008, when Rep. Hoekstra participated in a conference call on the "threat of Iran" - after telling participants that the Office of the DNI "continues to be a disappointment," he offered his own take on the situation with Iran.
As he approached the subject of Iran and nuclear weapons, Hoekstra readily admitted that he was basing his statements on speculation because there was no "real hard information" available. Within moments he moved from speculating to making a firm statement that "They [Iran] clearly want to move forward on their nuclear weapons program." As such, it was important that the military action option remains open.
Still harboring disdain for the 2007 NIE on Iran, he claimed "Regardless of what the National Intelligence Estimate that came out that was very poorly written and very poorly communicated, Iran continues to move forward very aggressively on its nuclear program."
As reported in my article of December 12, Representative Hoekstra also offered a window into his priorities as they relate to the incoming Obama administration. Hoekstra conjectured that on January 20, President Obama will face the realization that controversial programs such as "enhanced" interrogation and Guantanamo implemented by the Bush administration "rightly or wrongly have kept America’s homeland safe for seven-and-a-half years."
Just one more example of Hoekstra’s out of step thought-process. It is disturbing that he appears to have no regard for whether these programs are "right or wrong" particularly for a man in his position as ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.
In addition, his claims are in direct contrast to the findings of the Senate Armed Service Committee’s Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody which determined that use of aggressive techniques on detainees "Damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority."
Unfortunately, we may not be able to count on the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Sylvestre Reyes, to provide a counter balance to Hoekstra’s unwavering devotion to the president’s programs. Congress Daily reported last week that Reyes recommended to Obama’s transition team that some parts of the "alternative" interrogation program should be retained.
One thing we can count on is that unless the public gets proactive - and in a big way - we can continue to expect that the status quo will tighten its grip on an incoming president who promised anything but.