Saying 'No' to Gitmo North

Supposedly, the issue was the requirement for notification to congress of intelligence activities under the 1947 National Security Act, but the question of “Gitmo North” nearly stole the show.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) is the chair of a subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence called the “Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management.” If you glance at her quickly, you could easily mistake her – in appearance and mannerisms — for the California harridans, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Babsy Boxer.  

But Eshoo is a milder version.  In yesterday’s hearing on how to further mess up the law on how the Executive Branch has to notify congress on covert operations, she only once questioned the motives of Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the HPSCI.

Hoekstra’s offense was committed when he raised the issue of President Obama’s failure to notify Congress of where the president intends to send the more than 200 “al-Quida all stars” now held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hoekstra — backed up by subcommittee ranking Republican Sue Myrich (R-N.C.) as well as Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) — was clear and direct, accusing Obama of trying to kill congressional oversight.

The hearing — held, as Ms. Myrick pointed out — on the inauspicious 9-month anniversary of the president’s executive order to close Gitmo, was supposed to support the left’s theory that because Congress was as pure as Caesar’s wife in not leaking classified information, the 1947Act should be amended to make more than a few members able to access covert intelligence operations and information.

The two forgettable witnesses for the Democrats agreeably cited congress’s admirable record and said that intelligence notifications should be made available to the entire Senate and House committees and not just the “big eight” — the Senate and House majority and minority leaders and the chairmen and ranking minority members of the intelligence committees.

The Republican members, apparently dazed by this baldface fib, failed to question the witnesses on some of the instances in which congress leaked like a spaghetti colander.

[Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), is now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Leahy is in that lofty position — and not chairman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — because he was thrown off the aforementioned SSCI for leaking classified information.  That was before another senator leaked the fact that we were listening to Usama bin Laden’s cell phone, upon which revelation Mr. bin Laden stopped using the al-Q family plan with carryover minutes and we haven’t pinpointed him since.  Leahy’s intel defenestration also came before his colleagues, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) were made the subject of a criminal referral to the Justice Department in December 2004 for apparently leaking a “black” satellite program’s existence to the press.  In short, too many members of congress are as trustworthy with classified information as, say, Geraldo Rivera, who was nearly offed by some of our guys for his 2003 leak on television of, well, never mind.  I digress.]

Hoekstra and his colleagues placed Gitmo front and center by pointing out that by moving the inmates anywhere — especially to the United States — would change our ability to gather further intelligence from them.

(In a post-hearing interview, Hoekstra elaborated indirectly as intel folk are wont to do.  From his remarks, I gathered that the Gitmo inmates — many of whom were founding members of al-Quida and other terrorist groups – are still valuable sources of information.  And, he said, by moving them into the United States, we would vest them with the Constitutional rights all other people here have.  Hoekstra thus implied that we might not be able to question them at all.)

Hoekstra said, “The committee majority originally scheduled this hearing to focus largely on their contention that certain Bush administration counterterrorism efforts, some of which have played a major role in successfully defending our nation since 9/11, were not properly notified to Congress.  Despite the fact that documents and testimony before our committee over the last few months have indicated this is not true, the majority has insisted on going down this path as an academic exercise instead of focusing on specific issues that are calling out for congressional oversight.

”We have heard from people in the field and around CIA the damaging effects the allegation they lie all the time is having on morale in the intelligence community.  Rather than continuing to find some justification for the speaker’s claim, the committee should move on to review the national security decisions that are being made by this administration.”

Hoekstra kept swinging:  “It is clear that President Obama is trying to shut down congressional oversight and is willing to disregarded the requirement to keep the Congressional intelligence oversight committees “fully and currently informed” about national security matters.”

Dave Munson, a businessman from Standish, Michigan was called to testify by Hoekstra. He said that his little community — he said it is a town of 1500 in a county of 15,000, with one (yes, one) policeman — as apparently on the short list for housing Gitmo inmates because its state-run and almost-new supermax prison is closed. 

Munson said that though some town leaders were in touch with the Defense Department and getting information on the Obama administration’s intentions, the citizenry and most of the town officials were in the dark.

Munson’s problem — highlighted by Hoekstra and Rogers — is the intel committee’s problem.  And it’s a big one.

Rogers read off a list of nations that have attempted to house terrorist prisoners in their jails:  Britain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Singapore and several others.  The one thing they have in common is that the prisons in which the terrorists are held have been the target of terrorist attacks seeking to free the inmates.

And then there was the town of Beslan, in Russia.  When Chechen terrorists took over an elementary school in 2004 their announced objective was to force the release of other Chechen terrorists.  When the smoke cleared, more than 180 school children were dead. That prospect — and the prospect of losing the ability to extract further intelligence from al-Quida bigs — is enough to trigger the intel notification requirement.  It is enough  for the Obama administration to owe a duty to the locality they choose to obtain full and complete information about the dangers that may be brought to its doorstep.

And it is more than enough, to all but Obama, Eshoo, Pelosi & Co., to leave the Gitmo detainees precisely where they are.