December 12, 2007

Hoekstra: Hayden's Got Some 'Splainin' To Do

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) tells Eli Lake that the CIA's explanations for the destruction of interrogation tapes and the reversal of the NIE conclusions on Iran haven't satisfied him at all. CIA Director Michael Hayden testifies today before Hoekstra's House Intelligence Committee, and he shouldn't expect many softballs from the ranking Republican. Hoekstra wants to know why the intelligence community has dashed its credibility:

Following a 90-minute closed-door hearing yesterday in the Senate, Mr. Hayden told reporters that he laid out narrative for why the tapes were destroyed. But because both the recording and the destruction took place before he became director of the CIA, he could not provide all the answers to the questions from the Senators. The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rockefeller, a Democrat of West Virginia, said yesterday questions remained unanswered. Mr. Hoekstra also told The New York Sun that he told Mr. Hayden personally that the briefing his committee received on this month's Iran National Intelligence Estimate was "embarrassing."

That assessment asserts that Iran's enrichment of uranium in Natanz, Iran, is distinct from a nuclear weapons program that it halted in the fall of 2003. Mr. Hoekstra yesterday said he did not know what the distinction meant, and the basis for that conclusion was "non-existent."

"You would expect a very crisp presentation of sources and methods, that would lead you to reach these types of radically different conclusions from what they were saying as recently as three or four months ago," Mr. Hoekstra said. "From my perspective the basis was non-existent."

That perspective isn't unique to Hoekstra, either. The British and Israeli intelligence services haven't found much of a basis for the latest NIE, and have publicly said so. The British have even gone so far as to question whether American intelligence got hoodwinked by a transparent Iranian disinformation campaign that may have only consisted of having its military commanders complain about the stalled nuclear program on unsecured communications.

Lake notes in the New York Sun that Hoekstra stopped short of calling Hayden a liar about the destruction of the interrogation tapes, but only just short. Pointing out that the tapes got destroyed in 2005, Hoekstra says that the last briefings on the tapes came two years prior. In between, the CIA changed leadership twice, and the CIA failed to engage with Congress before the decision was made to destroy the tapes in 2005. That doesn't square with Hayden's public statement that oversight committees got informed of the plan prior to their destruction.

Hoekstra wants American intelligence to have credibility, but at the moment, it's difficult to see where it can muster any at all. Hoekstra plans to grill Hayden on the multiple and continuous failings at his agency and in the overall intel community. The hearings should result in some fireworks.


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In an interview with the NY Sun, Hoekstra explains that his panel has more questions than answers on the destruction of the interrogation tapes. He is equally disgusted with the NIE report from last week. I get the distinct impression that Hoekstra i... [Read More]