Saturday, August 11, 2007

It's OK To Leak Classified Intel If You're a Republican

Apparently.Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) 'I can leak, but you can't.'

Steve Benen::

Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) may have inadvertently leaked classified information during a Fox News interview, disclosing an aspect of a FISA court's decision regarding warrantless wiretapping. On Thursday, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, may have unintentionally done the same thing. ...

Given Hoekstra's hackish history, this week's alleged disclosure is par for the course. After all, Hoekstra has had a series of recent intelligence-related embarrassments.

* In November 2006, Hoekstra pushed the administration to publish online a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The idea was to let far-right bloggers "prove" that Saddam had WMD, but Hoekstra's plan led to the accidental release of secret nuclear research, including a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

* In October 2006, Hoestra "stripped the credentials of a Democratic committee aide he believed may have leaked a then-classified document to The New York Times. A month later, he quietly reinstated the aide's access."

* In July 2006, Hoekstra called a humiliating press conference to announce, "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" -- despite failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

* In June 2006, Hoekstra and Rick Santorum wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed, alleging that some officials in the intelligence community are attempting to destroy the Bush administration -- and America itself. ...
This whole story reminds me of another Republican, Sen Pat Roberts (R-KS), the former chair of the Senate Intel committee, who railed against leakers, except when he was the leaker or when he covered up leaks by fellow Republicans (posted in full as, save for the waybackmachine, the story has disappeared down the memory hole):
Witnesses leery of testifying while Roberts stays on leak investigation *
Sen Pat Roberts (R-KS) 'I was for prosecuting leakers before I was against it'
Two witnesses interviewed by the FBI in its probe of classified information leaked from a joint congressional inquiry in 2002 say they are very concerned about cooperating with a Senate Ethics Committee review of the matter because Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has not recused himself from the review.

Roberts is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Good-government advocates have called on Roberts to recuse himself from the committee’s probe into the leak case, which the Justice Department referred to it last summer.

The witnesses are reluctant to cooperate with the ethics panel because, they said, the FBI’s investigation focused on Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who at the time was the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and because Shelby’s former staff director Bill Duhnke and deputy staff director Jim Hensler now serve as Roberts’s top aides on Intelligence.

The Washington Post reported last August that federal investigators concluded that Shelby had divulged classified intercepted messages to the media in 2002 during the joint House-Senate inquiry into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The witnesses expressed concern that, as a result of Roberts’s participation in the Ethics Committee probe, Duhnke and Hensler may learn the substance of what the witnesses told investigators. There is no public evidence that Duhnke or Hensler was connected to the leaking of the information.

A scenario of retaliation feared by one witness would entail Roberts violating Ethics Committee rules by divulging the details of the investigation and not intervening to prevent subsequent retribution prompted by his leak.

The witnesses questioned whether Roberts would fairly weigh their statements to investigators because he was also questioned by the FBI and is a witness himself in the inquiry. They also questioned whether Roberts would be inclined to downplay Shelby’s culpability to shield his two aides.

Roberts and his spokeswoman Sarah Little declined several requests for comment. Duhnke and Hensler did not respond to requests for comment.

Roberts told Roll Call newspaper last month that he would participate in the Ethics Committee probe and that he decided against recusal because he believes his expertise on intelligence matters will help guide other members of the panel, none of whom is a member of Intelligence. Roberts also said the ethics inquiry would begin soon.

One of the two witnesses said that when the Justice Department referred the issue to the ethics panel it kept confidential the identities of people who gave information to their investigators. The Ethics Committee later asked the Justice Department to ask witnesses to allow their identities to be revealed to the panel, according to the witness. But the witness has declined to cooperate, citing to The Hill Roberts’s involvement in the investigation.

“I asked for confidentiality because I fear Bill Duhnke,” said the witness, who noted that Duhnke recently fired six members of the Intelligence Committee. “I gave them some information about Duhnke.”

Nevertheless, that does not necessarily mean the information linked Duhnke to the leak. Also, Duhnke, as staff director of the Intelligence Committee, has butted heads with various members of the intelligence community on and off the Hill, most recently when he fired several professional staffers, including longtime auditor Don Stone, and clashed with Democrats over management control of aides paid for with Democratic funds.

Citing Roberts’s rationale for participating in the ethics probe — specifically his ability to guide the panel on intelligence issues — the witness said: “He is going to have to rely on his intelligence staffers, and that would be Duhnke and Hensler.”

The second witness who spoke with FBI investigators also expressed unwillingness to cooperate with the Ethics Committee.
“If asked, I would be very concerned about doing it under these circumstances when there is such a clear conflict,” the witness said. “There’s no assurance that something said would not get back to those individuals.”

The witness also questioned how Roberts “would weigh statements by his own staff against conflicting statements from those not on his staff.”

Government watchdog groups echoed that sentiment.

“That seems to me to be a clear conflict,” said Mark Glaze, a member of the Campaign Legal Center and director of the Congressional Ethics Coalition, an alliance of nine government watchdog groups. “Clearly his current staff is wrapped up in ways that are complicated in an investigation of their former employer. Having him sit in judgment of them raises all questions about his partiality and ability to judge fairly, and [he] should avoid the public’s perception that he is biased by stepping aside.”

Meredith McGeehee, a former advocate with Common Cause who now also works for the Campaign Legal Center, a member of the Congressional Ethics Coalition, also said Roberts should recuse himself.

Gary Ruskin, head of the Congressional Accountability Project, who specializes in congressional ethics issues, said, “I think it’s obvious if Roberts was interviewed by the FBI he has some conflict of an interest but not clear how large it is. Roberts should make clear how conflicted he is out of this matter.”

“The staff is less of an issue because Roberts tells them what to do,” said Ruskin, arguing that it would be difficult for Duhnke to retaliate because Roberts must approve any decisions to fire staff.

Paul Butler, a former Justice Department prosecutor who now teaches law at George Washington University, also questioned Roberts’s role as a witness and investigator.

Roberts’s role on the Ethics Committee may also be compromised by a slip he made during a speech to a group of newspaper editors March 20, 2003, the day after the U.S. strike on Saddam Hussein’s bunker that kicked off the war in Iraq. Roberts told the group that the military used “what we call human intelligence indicat[ing] the location of Saddam Hussein.” Several intelligence experts considered this a serious breach because it revealed “sources and methods” of intelligence collection.

According to Senate Resolution 400, the Intelligence Committee’s authorizing resolution, “It shall be the duty of the [Select Committee on Ethics] to investigate any unauthorized disclosure of intelligence information of a member, officer or employee of the Senate.”

There is no indication that Roberts’s revelation to the journalists was ever referred to the Ethics Committee or the panel looked into it on its own.

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And thanks to the Sen Pat Roberts firewall, Sen Shelby got off scot-free:

Investigators Concluded Shelby Leaked Message *
Justice Dept. Declined To Prosecute Case

Lot's more on Sen Pat Roberts, here:

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS): Chairman of the Senate Cover-up Committee