WASHINGTON – In a sharply worded letter, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee has told President Bush that the administration is angering lawmakers, and possibly violating the law, by giving Congress too little information about domestic surveillance programs.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan has been a staunch defender of the administration’s anti-terror tactics. But seven weeks ago, he wrote to Bush to report that he had heard of “alleged Intelligence Community activities” not outlined to committee members in classified briefings.
“If these allegations are true,” he wrote, “they may represent a breach of responsibility by the Administration, a violation of law and … a direct affront to me and the Members of this committee.”
Hoekstra’s four-page letter of May 18 was posted Saturday on the New York Times’ Web site.
The letter is significant because few congressional Republicans have complained publicly about Bush’s surveillance programs, which include warrantless wiretaps of some Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails as well as the massive collection of telephone records involving U.S. homes and businesses.
Heretofore, the sharpest GOP concerns have been raised by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. On May 26, Specter voted against Michael V. Hayden’s confirmation as CIA director to protest what he called “the administration’s policy of not informing the Congress … in a way which enables the Congress and the Judiciary Committee to do our constitutional job on oversight.”
In his letter, Hoekstra complained of unspecified alleged surveillance operations that had not become public at the time and that, perhaps, remain undisclosed.