Bush assailed over intelligence programs


WASHINGTON --In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.

The letter from Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not specify the intelligence activities that he believed had been hidden from Congress.

However, Hoekstra, who was briefed on and supported the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed.

Recently, after the harsh criticism leveled by Hoekstra, intelligence officials have appeared at two closed committee briefings to answer questions from the chairman and other members of the panel.

The briefings appear to have eased but not erased the concerns of Hoekstra and other lawmakers about whether the administration is sharing information on all intelligence operations.

A copy of the four-page letter dated May 18, which has not been previously disclosed, was obtained by The New York Times.

"I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed," Hoesktra wrote.

"If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies," he wrote.

The Michigan congressman added: "The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play Twenty Questions to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution."

A spokesman for Hoekstra, Jamal D. Ware, said he could not discuss the activities allegedly withheld from Congress.

But he said that Hoekstra remained adamant that no intelligence programs could be hidden from oversight committees.

"Chairman Hoekstra has raised these issues with the administration to ensure that the intelligence committee is able to conduct its job of oversight," Ware said.

"Intelligence officials have committed to being forthcoming with Congress, and Chairman Hoekstra is going to hold them to their word," said Ware.

Hoekstra's blunt letter is evidence of a rift between the White House and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives over the administration's perceived indifference to congressional oversight and input on intelligence matters.

Hoekstra wrote that he had shared his complaints with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and that the speaker "concurs with my concerns."

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