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Sparring within House intelligence panel over Fort Hood grows sharper


Democrats accuse Rep. Pete Hoekstra of playing politics with the Fort Hood investigation. (Freddie Lee/Fox News via Getty Images).

By Ben Pershing
The investigation into last week's deadly shooting at Fort Hood has driven a sharp split between Democrats and Republicans on the House intelligence committee, with each side drawing vastly different conclusions from the same information.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the Intelligence panel, sees a suspect in the case, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, with ties to Muslim extremists that should have been flagged, and the possibility of a cover-up by the Obama administration. And Democrats see a Republican -- and gubernatorial candidate -- playing politics and grabbing headlines.

The partisan divide on the Fort Hood probe broke open Saturday, when House members were still in Washington to vote on the health-care reform bill. Hoekstra sent a letter that day to Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA, raising "the possibility that serious issues exist with respect to the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies," and asking that they preserve "all documents and materials connected with this matter."

In a statement released Monday, Hoekstra turned up the heat on the White House. "President Obama said people should not jump to conclusions about what happened at Fort Hood," Hoekstra said, "but the administration is in possession of critical information related to the attack that they are refusing to release to Congress or the American people."

House Democrats were dismissive of that charge. "That's ludicrous," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a member of the intelligence panel.

Intelligence committee chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) also took an apparent shot at Hoekstra, saying in a statement Monday: "I am disappointed that some have rushed to the news media with unfounded information in order to gain headlines. I hope that my colleagues will refrain from speculation, pray for those who were affected by this tragic incident, and let investigators do their work."

The crux of the partisan fight has been over a simple subject -- briefings. Hoekstra and other committee Republicans hoped to receive a briefing from Blair on the Fort Hood case on Saturday, given that members were still in town but about to leave for a week-long recess. They were rebuffed in their request.

"We could have done it Saturday," said Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), a member of the Intelligence panel. "So yeah, we're frustrated."

But Democrats feel the briefing schedule is just fine.

"I spoke with the Director of National Intelligence on Friday morning, and Director Blair committed to briefing members of the Committee on any possible information the Intelligence Community may have had with respect to the tragedy at Ft. Hood last Thursday," Reyes said in his Monday statement, with the briefing expected to occur when the House returns to session next week.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) -- the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate intelligence committee -- both declined to criticize the administration for its performance so far in the investigation.

Feinstein said Monday Blair had assured her she would "be getting a fuller briefing soon," and Bond said, "First, it's important to let the investigators do their jobs. Then we will find out the who, what, and when, if anything, our intelligence community knew and whether such information was shared with the appropriate action agencies."

Some senators got a briefing on Fort Hood Monday evening, as did leadership aides and the majority and minority staff directors of several House committees.

Beyond the dispute over the briefing schedule, the parties are even squabbling over who on the committee was at work Saturday and who wasn't.

Democrats complained that Hoekstra did not alert Reyes before he sent the unusual request, nor did he ask whether any Democrats might want to sign on to the letter. A committee Republican aide pointedly responded that the minority could not consult with the majority about the letter beforehand, because while GOP committee members and staff were at their posts Saturday working on Fort Hood issues, panel Democrats were not.

A Democratic aide called that charge silly, pointing out that the chairman and all committee Democrats were in the Capitol Saturday -- along with every other member of the House -- and the majority staff director was also on the Hill and fully engaged on Fort Hood.

Democrats privately suspect they know Hoekstra's real motive: He is running for governor of Michigan and, they say, is eager to use this story to get media coverage. But Hoekstra spokesman Jamal Ware said Democrats were deflecting attention from their own inaction.

"Congressman Hoekstra won't make excuses for doing his job and conducting oversight on this matter," Ware said. "This is an issue that should concern all members of Congress."

Hoekstra and Reyes have clashed repeatedly in the three years since the two men have led the intelligence panel. They have feuded over the content of the committee's annual intelligence authorization bill and the procedure for moving it, and over individual controversies, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) allegation that the CIA had lied to Congress about detainee abuses.

Given that history and the sharp rhetoric flying this week, it remains to be seen whether Reyes and Hoekstra can come together to determine what, if anything, the committee can and should do to investigate Fort Hood. Both sides say they will wait until members return and are fully briefed next week before deciding their next move.

By Ben Pershing  |  November 10, 2009; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  Hearing Watch , House  
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Comments

It is a little too soon after the event to be assigning blame. You got a physician and officer in the U.S. Army accused of murdering fellow soldiers. How do you predict that a member of the military has lost his mind to God? The Department of Homeland Security was established by Congress to organize the government in such a way that departments communicate security threats to each other. There are reports that the good Major was communicating with a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer outside of the U.S.A. This act or set of acts was dismissed as trivial by a Pentagon agency and not, apparently, communicated to the Department of Homeland Security. There is an undercurrent of thinking that the our involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amount to Crusades against Muslims worldwide. No number of denials from the leadship wipes these thoughts away from every mind.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | November 10, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

At first reports upon learning that the killer at fort Hood was dead. I said to myself good we will not have to absorb ourselves in a trial. Now that he is alive. We will perhaps gain some insight into why he perpetuated this dastardly deed. What for example went through his mind when he woke up and realized that his fate was not going to be matrydom. Instead to his surprise and maybe nightmare he wakes up in a military hospital under armed guard facing multiple counts of capital murder. Most mass murderers who commit similar crimes either commit self inflicted suicide or suicide by cop. In this case he will live to see the relatives of his victims. They will hopefully be able to look the murderer in the eye and say why. Caretakers and jailers keep him alive don't provide any opportunities for him to escape justice. Like himself ironically almost half of the victims were mental health professionals. Was he deliberately targeting them, maybe that question and others will be answered.

Posted by: edhenson | November 10, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

It is next to impossible to render a conclusion as to whether the Army or the Federal intelligence agencies had any true "right" to more closely monitor or regulate Nidal Hasan's activities. The First Amendment, the case-law created Federal right to privacy, the Patriot Act and Army regulations are not consistently harmonized in a way to find an answer.

Obviously, the person whose "fault" it will be that a mentally unstable Hasan was left in the Army is the senior officer or officers who made the decision to force Hasan to stay in the Army and to force him to be deployed to Iraq.

The irony, however, is that in similar situations, some state law enforcement officials have no compunction about working their way around the First Amendment and the right to privacy, when potential threats to identifiable groups of people are noticed. See:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov/10/scientology-foes-arrest-puts-vegas-big-clash/

Posted by: Jennifer555 | November 10, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Watching the memorial service today, all the pictures of the victims I could see were white people. I wonder if he was targeting white people only. Since he yelled "Allah ak-bar" while shooting, he was probably targeting Christians. Because I do not trust the democrats in this administration, I expect there will be a cover up and we will never know exactly what happened. I hope I am wrong.

Posted by: annnort | November 10, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

FYI annnort: At least one of those shot but not killed was black. But with your bias, you'll believe what suits you.

Posted by: FedUp1 | November 10, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Our mighty FBI. Recently, the FBI was informed and a complaint was filed with them regarding biased food contamination taking place at a well connected large supermarket chain catering to thousand of people, hate crime/biased threats to murder a coworker (at that supermarket) and her children for uncovering the plot, and about the police where one of its detective demanded $900 as a bribe/incentive to investigate the complaints. With the help of corrupt politicians, our political FBI agents, instead of investigating these serious issues have decided to engage in an extensive cover up scheme, and then refused to investigate… all that just to secure a $28 million investment that that supermarket chain proposed. Evidence showing government agents engaging in cover-ups for political/personal gains exists. Does anyone care to learn the details and try to prevent the next government assisted mass murders? Unlikely. But, we know how to stage excellent mourning shows.

We can’t wait to see/hear our representatives reaction to a report some of them will be getting soon.

Posted by: Shanan1 | November 10, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Hoekstra, another political wannabe. These guys seem to come out of the woodwork en masse when a tragedy hits. Republicans are never ones to let a tragedy go to waste. "Mission Accomplished," anyone?

Posted by: dakotahgeo | November 11, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

The notion that Muslims cannot ever be assimilated into our culture is a commonly held view and with reasons. Social strife in major European cities and our own Fort Hood tragedy may be indicative that “East is East, West is West and never the twain shall meet”.
Nineteenth century immigration in no way resembled ours. At the end of the 18th, President Washington reminded us in his Farewell Address: “With slight shades of differences, you have the same religion, manners, habits and political principles.”
.Our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen the shades of differences in our times. They provided for an adaptive mechanism, amending the Constitution, that has not been as timely as they had probably expected. Chances are it would take a new Constitutional Assembly and an entirely new system of government to significantly correct our shortcomings.
Consider the role of religion in government as viewed by President Washington: “ Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined eduction on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” I find it ironic that many Muslims consider their Jidah to be a war against a Godless country; our deviation from President's Washington's advice should be a source of contention or concern to us.
Our innate sense of fairness probably placed Major Hassan in the position he held in the Army. There may be thousands like him, Americans by birth, not by choice, who would probably place their God above their country. If this were their right as Americans, let's not by our sense of fairness place them in the difficult position to choose. Political correctness could have too high a price.

Posted by: eliseom | November 11, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Terrorists: 13

America: 0

Posted by: pholeck | November 11, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

annort

They were not all white people. I don't want to be cynical here and assume an incindiary intent with your remark, so I'll just ask: did you watch the memorial, at which all the victims' bio's were presented?


Non-Caucasians:

Specialist Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul. From the Times: "Specialist Xiong, who has three young children, had moved his family to Texas while he prepared to deploy overseas."

Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman, 55, of Independence, Missouri. The Times reports that Lt. Col. Warman "followed in the footsteps of her father and grandfather when she joined the armed forces, her sister, Margaret Yaggie, said."

Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, who spoke little English when he arrived in the United States from Mexico but earned a Ph.D. and helped combat units cope with the stress of deployment;

to name but a few.

Posted by: BlusterMonkey | November 11, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

This tragedy is an act of terrorism. These radical Muslims do not practice a religion of peace. They wish to kill all non-believers. We as a civilization have been desensitized to that fact. When the civilized world was warned about Hitler it fell on deaf ears- for awhile. Let's not allow this desensitization to render this Nation deaf to reality and history.

Posted by: rancher2 | November 12, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

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