‘There are concerns’ about Hoekstra’s loose lips

‘THERE ARE CONCERNS’ ABOUT HOEKSTRA’S LOOSE LIPS…. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed to the Washington Post this week, on the record, that Nidal Malik Hasan had exchanged emails with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported Tuesday, it was a problematic revelation — that federal officials had kept secret for a reason.

According to the GOP staff on House Intelligence Committee, they “do not know” if Hoekstra released classified information, but they’re “guessing” his remarks weren’t a problem.

Marc Ambinder followed up today with senior intelligence officials who said “there are concerns” about Hoekstra’s loose lips. The Republican lawmaker, who is routinely briefed on some of the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets, appears to have tipped a radical cleric to surveillance efforts and inadvertently confirmed “a sensitive capability that the N.S.A. regularly employs to collect intelligence.”

A former intelligence official privy to details of the NSA’s programs said that it “would appear to be the case” that Hoekstra divulged too much information.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

I realize that leading members of the Intelligence Committees get a lot of information, and it’s no doubt challenging to recognize the difference between information that can be shared with the public and information that must be kept under wraps for national security purposes. People make honest mistakes sometimes.

But Hoekstra isn’t a rookie — he’s a far-right lawmaker who’s frequently complained about leaks, but who’s nevertheless frequently been irresponsible with secret information. That House Republicans haven’t removed him from the committee up until now doesn’t speak well of the caucus.

And in the larger context, as Chris Hayes explained very well on Tuesday, there’s a broader debate about administrative oversight and the question of whether more members of Congress can be trusted with classified briefings. Hoekstra, by leaking like a sieve, is not only demonstrating a reckless disregard for national security, he’s also undermining Congress’ argument about more stringent oversight. Agency officials will no doubt respond to Hoekstra’s remarks as evidence of why lawmakers can’t be trusted with secrets, and they’ll have a point.