Pete Hoekstra for CIA Director?

Given the following, I guess we’re going to have to talk about Pete Hoekstra:

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, an ex-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that he would accept the job of CIA director if it were offered to him by President-elect Donald Trump.

“I’d take the job if Mr. Trump decided that someone with my kind of background and experience is what he wanted in the job,” the former Republican Michigan congressman said when asked flat out if he wanted the job of CIA director during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.” “You know, this is a decision that Mr. Trump and the transition team will make and I’ll just kind of wait until they make that decision.”

Hoekstra said he has been in communication with Trump’s transition team “on a regular basis” to discuss “a number of different things,” but declined to detail any specifics of those conversations. He said he is currently an informal adviser to the transition team and that he was “working through the details” as to what more formal role he might play.

Is it in our national security interests to have a CIA director who our own Steve Benen once called “a human sieve”?

Pete Hoekstra served as the 2nd District of Michigan’s representative in Congress from 1993 to 2011. He rose to be the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee in 2004 and served in that capacity until the Republicans lost control of the House in the 2006 midterms. Thereafter, he served as the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee. This constitutes the entirety of his “qualifications” to run our nation’s clandestine services. Prior to entering Congress he was basically the sales manager for a office furniture manufacturer. Nothing wrong with honest work, but Hoekstra has no actual experience as a covert operator or a manager of spies or even as a producer of real intelligence reports.

This may be why he repeatedly found himself responsible for leaking sensitive classified information when he served on the Intelligence Committee.

For example, in 2007, Hoekstra wrote an opinion piece in the New York Post complaining about leaks of classified information, but the article itself actually leaked classified information about the Intelligence Community’s budget.

Back in 2005, Hoekstra was obsessed with proving that we had not gone to war in Iraq under false pretenses or even under the mistaken impression that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He pressured the Bush administration to release online troves of sensitive documents that had been seized in Iraq so that right-wing bloggers could comb through them for supporting evidence.

The campaign for the Web site was led by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Last November [2005], he and his Senate counterpart, Pat Roberts of Kansas, wrote to [Director of National Intelligence] Mr. [John] Negroponte, asking him to post the Iraqi material. The sheer volume of the documents, they argued, had overwhelmed the intelligence community.

In other words, they thought the Intelligence Community didn’t have the manpower to find the evidence themselves, so noted Arabic-specialists in the right-wing blogosphere would help them out.

Some intelligence officials feared that individual documents, translated and interpreted by amateurs, would be used out of context to second-guess the intelligence agencies’ view that Mr. Hussein did not have unconventional weapons or substantive ties to Al Qaeda. Reviewing the documents for release would add an unnecessary burden on busy intelligence analysts, they argued.

But Hoekstra won his argument and Negroponte posted the cache of documents on the internet.

On April 18, about a month after the first documents were made public, Mr. Hoekstra issued a news release acknowledging “minimal risks,” but saying the site “will enable us to better understand information such as Saddam’s links to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and violence against the Iraqi people.” He added: “It will allow us to leverage the Internet to enable a mass examination as opposed to limiting it to a few exclusive elites.”

The result was predictable. They found no evidence of WMD stockpiles in Iraq. But they did publish a handy-dandy guide to building a nuclear weapon.

The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.

This caused a bit of a stir at the time since teaching folks how to build an atom bomb wasn’t exactly a better justification for invading Iraq than the one Hoekstra had been trying to defend. After the Bush administration admitted their error and took down the website, a spokesman for Hoekstra said that the complaints about the site “didn’t sound like a big deal,” and that “We were a little surprised when they pulled the plug.”

In the midst of all this nonsense about the “real unexamined evidence” that Saddam Hussein had WMD, Hoekstra held a press conference in June 2006 where he asserted that the case had been proven, at least as far as chemical weapons were concerned. But, he was wrong.

At issue is a classified overview of chemical munitions found in Iraq since 2003 that was completed in April by the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center. One of the report’s key findings was that since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, coalition forces have recovered about 500 shells, canisters or other munitions that contain degraded mustard gas or sarin nerve agent.

That finding was seized on by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a strong supporter of the war who is trailing his Democratic opponent in his reelection bid. The two said that the study indicated that Saddam Hussein, as president of Iraq, possessed weapons of mass destruction.

“Iraq was not a WMD-free zone,” Santorum told reporters earlier this week. “We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons.” He added that he had been chasing the intelligence report “for 2 1/2 months.”

Yesterday, however, Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel, said the study contained “nothing new” and questioned the timing of its release, coming as it did in the midst of congressional debates on the war in Iraq.

That assertion was backed up by representatives of three intelligence agencies who told reporters that the study differed little from a 2004 report of a team of American weapons inspectors led by Charles A. Duelfer that concluded that Hussein was not in possession of significant stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons at the time of the U.S.-led invasion.

The intelligence officials also said that the munitions referred to in the report were produced before the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and that they had degraded and could not be used as designed. “There is no evidence today of any post-1991 WMD munitions,” said the official, who agreed to speak with reporters only if his identity and his agency were not disclosed.

No doubt, Hoekstra and Santorum succeeded in convincing many Bush supporters with their fake news. I believe that was the whole point, since the reality-based world found the whole episode deeply embarrassing for the duo.

In 2009, when serving as the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, Hoekstra sought to gain partisan advantage out of the Ft. Hood shootings carried out by Nidal Hasan. Hoekstra revealed that Hasan had been in email communication with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric living in Yemen who would later be controversially killed in a drone strike authorized by President Obama. The problem was that that information was highly classified at the time. When Rachel Maddow inquired about why Hoekstra was disclosing classified information she got the run-around from his office but discovered “that Hoekstra “complained all weekend” that he was not being briefed on Fort Hood to his liking, then missed the briefing that was held because he left town of his own accord.”

At the time, Chris Hayes made the following observation:

“This is a guy who, in 2006, called a press conference to great fanfare to announce the weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. This is the same person who has accused the CIA of lying to him many times and turned around when Nancy Pelosi said the CIA hadn’t told the truth about torture and interrogation techniques, said it was obviously absurd the CIA lied would ever lie to Congress.”

Then came the infamous 2009 Christmas Day attempt by Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger airplane by lighting his sneaker’s shoelaces on fire. In this case, Steve Benen referred to Hoekstra as a shameless buffoon for immediately racing to the cameras to accuse the Obama administration for “failing to connect the dots” and for calling it an “apparent” terrorist attack. Benen attributed this behavior, in part, to Hoekstra’s ambition to win a Republican gubernatorial primary back in Michigan. He lost that primary in 2010 to Rick Snyder.

So, to recap a bit, Hoekstra’s qualifications for the position of Director of Central Intelligence include no actual experience as an intelligence officer, operational, analytical or managerial. His sole claim to relevant experience is his time served on the House Intelligence Committee where he spent most of his energy trying to prove that Saddam Hussein really had WMD and connections to 9/11, routinely accused the CIA of lying to him, pressured the intelligence community to release unvetted intelligence so he could politicize it, had a record of divulging classified information, and where he regularly mischaracterized intelligence reports and deliberately misled the American people for some combination of raw partisan advantage and personal ambition. Perhaps his biggest contribution was inadvertently forcing the release of a “cookbook” on how to build an atom bomb.

Donald Trump hasn’t nominated him to anything, yet, and he may not, especially if he cares about keeping true to his word about draining the swamp of lobbyists.

Abroad, Hoekstra has lobbied on behalf of the Kurdish regional government, a potash company in Belarus and an organization in Libya. In the U.S., he has lobbied on behalf of multiple major corporations.

How does a former congressman get a job lobbying for a potash company in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus? Why is this such a pattern with so many people in Trump’s orbit?

In any case, I can’t imagine that the rank-and-file at the CIA would be pleased to have a boss like Hoekstra. But, if he can survive a confirmation hearing, that may be what they get.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.