Anti-leak Congressman discloses classified intelligence budget cut
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has been calling for the intelligence community to strongly prosecute leakers in recent weeks. But in a Thursday op-ed in the New York Post, the Michigan Republican revealed a budget cut from the classified portion of an intelligence authorization bill for the coming year.
"The 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill cut [emphasis original] human-intelligence programs but directed U.S. intelligence agencies to study global climate change," Hoekstra wrote in his Thursday critique of Congressional Democrats' intelligence policy.
The Congressman's revelation of the budget cut on a newspaper op-ed page drew sharp criticism from advocates of greater openness and transparency in the budgeting for the intelligence community.
"It looks like Rep. Hoekstra is playing games with classification rules by making his claim publicly," said Dr. Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. "I suggest that he go investigate himself."
Aftergood's remark is tied to the Intelligence Committee's report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill. The human intelligence budget cuts that Hoekstra complains about are found only in the classified portion of the legislation.
"In the classified annex, the majority cuts human intelligence programs counter to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission," according to the 'Minority Views' section of the report.
Jamal Ware, a Senior Adviser to Congressman Hoekstra, disagreed with Aftergood's criticism and said that nothing had been leaked.
"The op-ed and report expressed views on a Committee action without disclosing in any way the underlying classified matter," he said.
Hoekstra has been pushing for the intelligence community to investigate and prosecute staff who leak details of covert US government programs to the press, as first revealed by RAW STORY in July. In his Post op-ed, the congressman continued his critiques.
"Leaks to the news media have seriously undermined anti-terrorist intelligence programs," he claimed. "Instead of condemning these leaks for the damage they have done to our national security, Democrats have tried to exploit them to attack the Bush administration for spying on Americans, a charge that has been repeatedly proven untrue."
Hoekstra also complained that House Democrats are seeking to declassify the dollar value of the entire intelligence budget.
"The Democratic 9/11 bill that passed Congress last month included a clause to declassify the top line of the U.S. intelligence budget - a move that will give our foes more information on our activities, but do nothing to protect us from terrorists," the Ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee added.
Aftergood told RAW STORY that Hoekstra and other congressmembers' opposition to the proposed policy change makes it harder for them to make credible public calls for changes to intelligence budgeting.
"If you live by secrecy, you die by secrecy," he said. "Rep. Hoekstra has been an ardent defender of the secrecy barriers surrounding the intelligence budget and a harsh critic of leaks. Ironically, he now finds himself unable to coherently defend what he claims is a mistaken budget choice."
In the majority section of the House Intelligence Committee's report on the authorization bill, Democrats claim that they made additional investments to improve human intelligence.
The bill, the report claims, "Adds funds...for human intelligence (HUMINT) training," and also claims to force "managers of a major HUMINT initiative to develop a stronger organizational strategy for penetrating hard targets."
Aftergood was dubious of the claim that the bill made cuts to human intelligence.
"It sounds fishy," the Secrecy News author stated. "My guess is that there is another side to the story."
But Intelligence Committee Democrats did admit to one area where they made a budget decrease. In the report they acknowledged that their bill, "Cuts wasteful spending on contractors at a major agency."
RAW STORY contacted but did not receive a reply from the office of Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Earlier this month, the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington accused House Minority Leader John Boehner of publicly disclosing a classified court decision that found the Bush administration's Terrorist Surveillence Program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.