Peter Hoekstra Once Again Helps Al Qaeda Spread Terror For His Personal Political Gain

The dumbest thing  you can do in response to a terrorist attack is further the goal of the terrorists by spreading more fear. My Congressman, Pete Hoekstra, couldn’t resist doing this yet again in hopes of obtaining political gain following yesterday’s terror attempt in Detroit.

A Nigerian man claiming ties to al Qaeda attempted to set off an explosion on an international flight arriving in Detroit yesterday. He had a powder and a fluid strapped to his leg which he mixed in an attempt to create an explosion as the plane descended into Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The attempt failed with only a minimal explosion and the man was subdued.

In response to this attack there needs to be an investigation as to why someone who was already on terrorist watch lists not only managed to get aboard the plane but to do so with potentially explosive substances strapped to his leg. We need to find out if he was really acting under orders of al Qaeda and what other plans they might have. This highlights a security problem I have long feared–we are vulnerable to the weakest link in screening anywhere in the world as once someone gets past security at one airport they can travel internationally with far less scrutiny.

This is a time for reasoned evaluation of our security systems, not to attempt to instill further panic for political gain as Hoekstra has. Hoekstra is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and is a candidate for the 2010 Republican nomination for Governor. Presumably he thinks that he improves his prospect among Republicans by making cheap political points such as this:

“It’s not surprising,” U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Holland Republican, said of the alleged terrorist attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight in Detroit. A Nigerian who authorities said had told them he was ordered by al-Qaida to detonate an explosive was in custody. Reports linked the explosives to Yemen.

“People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration,” said Hoekstra.

Such conduct is hardly new from Hoekstra. He has previously made discredited claims of finding WMD in Iraq. After having written an op-ed condemning others for divulging military secrets, he himself was found to have divulged secrets on Twitter. He previously resorted to scare tactics which have been criticized by several former national security officials when there was talk of moving prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to a maximum security prison in Michigan.

Besides commenting before we have much information and unnecessarily spreading fear, Hoekstra’s message makes little sense in trying to blame a Democratic administration. It was the Republican Congress which blocked attempts to fight al Qaeda under Bill Clinton. Other Democrats such as John Kerry were warning about the threat of terrorism well before 9/11.

The Clinton administration even left the Bush administration warnings about al Qaeda. The Bush administration not only ignored these warnings but lied about receiving them. Then there was that CIA briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” just before the attack which George Bush ignored. As Al Gore discussed in The Assault on Reason, paying attention to this warning should have led to a review of the State Department/INS watch list which already contained the names of many of the 9/11 terrorists. Others could have also been identified before the attack as they were using the same addresses or frequent flier numbers. In 2006 Keith Olbermann also reviewed the many warnings which were ignored. Barack Obama has spoken out several times about the need to respond to terrorism including his speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars back in 2007.

Playing politics with terrorism has also been commonplace from Republicans. After 9/11 we had a time of national unity when people of both parties were willing to support George Bush in taking reasonable action to respond. Instead the Republicans took advantage of 9/11 both for partisan gain and to push through their pre-9/11 agenda, including attacking Iraq, which has only acted to weaken the country and increase the risk of terrorist attacks.

There are many people in Michigan, including myself, who have family members who will be returning home from vacations on international flights through Detroit.I hope that rather than helping him politically, many more Michigan voters are repulsed by Peter Hoekstra’s irresponsible attempts to spread fear and seek personal political gain at a time when we need a serious review of the problem. Pete Hoekstra has demonstrated yet again that he is not fit to be Governor.

West Michigan Can Wind Up With Even Worse Than “Crazy Pete”

West Michigan is on the front lines of the culture wars, including the types of areas which banned the Harry Potter books for promoting witchcraft. For years the area has been represented in Congress by Pete Hoekstra (often known as Crazy Pete). Among the low lights of Hoekstra’s career have been discredited claims of finding WMD in Iraq, divulging secrets on Twitter, and resorting to scare tactics which have been criticized by several former national security officials. Hoekstra has become sufficiently crazy to now have potential for to seek higher office as a Republican and he has decided to give up his seat in hopes of becoming governor. If that prospect isn’t scary enough, a Republican who sounds even crazier than Crazy Pete has announced plans to run for his seat.

Jay Riemersma has announced plans to run for Hoekstra’s seat. Riemersma, a former tight end for the University of Michigan and the Buffalo Bills, should have stuck with sports rather than entering politics. He is one Michigan man I will never support. CNN’s Political Ticker summarizes his views:

Since retiring from professional sports, Riemersma has been working for the conservative Family Research Council and coaching high school football. In November 2008, he penned a letter to the editor in the Holland Sentinal entitled “How could Christians vote for Obama?”

In the article, he said that “faith should permeate every aspect of our lives” and said any Christian who chose to support Barack Obama’s presidential bid did so “from a lack of understanding.”

“Too many Christians shroud their God-given light with misguided intentions and uninformed choices,” Riemersma wrote. “Moving forward to the next election, I implore all Christians to base their vote not on a political party or a polished politician, but rather on Biblical principle.”

Former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr, often considered the Democrat on Bo Schembechler’s staff, will be appearing at receptions for Riemersma in Holland and Grand Haven on Thursday. Apparently Carr is placing loyalty to team above principle.

Some Democrats have felt they have a chance to take Hoekstra’s seat once he steps down, noting that George Bush won 60 percent of the vote in 2004 in this Congressional district but John McCain won just 50.8 percent of the vote in 2008. I fear that Riemersma is just the type who might get out the vote in West Michigan and will likely do better than McCain, especially with Obama not on the ballot.

Hoekstra Criticized By Former National Security Officials For Scare Tactics

My Congressman is once again up to resorting to scare tactics. Pete Hoekstra already destroyed his credibility with discredited claims of finding WMD in Iraq. Now that he hopes to run for Governor of Michigan, he is trying to find new ways to scare people into voting for him. This time he is using fear of terrorism to attack possible plans to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Standish, Michigan. The Michigan Messenger reports opposition to his claims:

A group of former national security officials and military officers who have worked on the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals have written a letter to Rep. Pete Hoekstra criticizing him for “politicizing” the debate over a possible plan to transfer Gitmo detainees to a maximum security prison in Standish, Michigan.

Here is the letter sent to Hoekstra:

As military and national security officials who have spent our entire careers fighting to protect the American people and the defend country from attack, we all agree that the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay needs to be closed-as do five former Secretaries of State, Gen. David Petraeus, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. We also agree with you that the discussion over closing Guantanamo and moving the detainees to a new facility needs to occur, as you have said, in a “civil and rational way.” That is why we were disappointed last week-during a town hall meeting in Standish, MI, whose prison is a possible site to detain terror suspects -to hear you politicize such a critical national security issue and disseminate misrepresentations and exaggerations about closing Guantanamo and the possibility of housing terrorist suspects on American soil. In doing so, you spread fear in order to score political points, and perpetuate the Bush/Cheney era strategy of seeking political victories instead of doing what’s right to protect the country.

According to reports, you said there was “much to fear” if the detainees came to Standish. Standish tavern owner Dave Munson stated your comments “scared the heck out [him]…soft targets and safe zones, that if they came to this country they would have rights, visitors and friends would come who could be jihadists.” But you also acknowledged that the Supermax Facility in Florence, CO-which houses terrorists like Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack who was captured in Pakistan, Zacharias Moussaoui, convicted in connection to the attacks on 9/11, as well as the East Africa Embassy bombers-has never had a major incident or attempted jailbreak. And indeed American prison facilities-and the men and women who work there-have proven themselves extremely capable of protecting American lives while also imprisoning dangerous terrorists; even after decades, we have never had a major incident tied to the domestic imprisonment of terrorists.

The former warden of the Supermax facility said prisoners “spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells, every minute, every meal. The window in their cell is blocked so they can’t see the mountains.” Yet you stated that detainees housed in America “would have greater opportunities to command and control their networks through outsiders and to spread radical jihadist ideology.” The Supermax warden also stated that Ramzi Yousef has never left his cell. If the same-if not stricter-standards are applied to Guantanamo detainees held domestically, then how exactly would they command terrorist networks overseas?

You also said in the past that you “have no doubt that we could move these folks into a prison in Michigan. We could move them into a maximum security prison perhaps anywhere around the country. And there’s no doubt in my mind that we could probably contain them and hold them and they wouldn’t escape.” Do you still believe this to be the case?

You also stated in testimony to the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee that “making Michigan home to the world’s most dangerous terrorists will not make it more attractive for tourists, families or potential job providers.” We ask if you can say with certainty that Colorado’s economy has been negatively affected by housing terrorists in the Florence facility-or the economies of Illinois, New York City, or North Carolina, for that matter-which have all held or detained some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists?

The bottom line is while the Administration should provide a clear plan for closing Guantanamo and transferring detainees, we should also not allow the destructive politics of fear, which tarnish America’s national security imperatives, to dictate the debate. By stirring up panic and distorting reality for political purposes, you do a disservice to the people of Michigan and the United States. Politicizing national security for partisan gain has dangerous consequences for effectively defending this country and protecting American lives.

You yourself once demanded that “partisan political games have no place when it comes to national security.” We ask you to live up to your own standards when it comes to discussing Guantanamo Bay and detainees. Whether it’s in Standish Michigan or the halls of Congress, politicizing national security is always dangerous. We ask you to return the debate to the “civil and rational” in order to stop the spreading of fear that plays into the very hands of the enemies we are trying to defeat.

Sincerely,

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham (US Army Res. Ret.), Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants at Guantanamo Bay, 2004-2005
Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton (USA, Ret.), National Security Network Senior Adviser
Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr. (USA Ret.)
Vice Admiral Lee Gunn (USN, Ret.)
Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick (USA, Ret.), Former Deputy National Security Adviser
Richard Clarke, Former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council
Margaret Henoch, Retired Senior Officer, Central Intelligence Agency
Jonathan Winer, Former Deputy Assistant Sec. of State for International Law Enforcement
Vic Comras, Former State Department Minister Counselor
Michael Kraft, Former Senior Advisor, State Department Counterterrorism Office

Getting At The Truth, Regardless of Party

There’s been considerable question lately as to how much Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats knew about waterboarding. ABC uncritically repeated claims that she was informed while others such as Greg Sargent have shown that this is not entirely clear. The CIA has conceded that the documents cited might not be accurate, while my Congressman, Pete Hoekstra, claims to have the goods on Pelosi. (Hoekstra might or might not be right on this one, but as far as I’m concerned Hoekstra’s credibility has been zilch since he tried to pass off bogus claims of finding WMD in Ira)q.  Marc Ambinder has further background on this controversy.

Many conservative bloggers have once again turned a search for truth into a partisan battle, misrepresenting the situation as Democrats and their supporters being more concerned with covering their asses. The Republicans are holding a pretty weak hand when their defense to committing war crimes comes down to claims that some Democratic leaders also knew about their crimes.

Meanwhile many liberal bloggers are taking a more reality-based approach, as has been the case throughout the post 9/11 era. Liberal bloggers such as Josh Marshall have no qualms about questioning whether Democratic leaders knew what was going on.

While we do not know all the specifics yet, it looks pretty clear that 1) the Bush years were ones of wanton criminality in the highest levels of government and 2) the Democrats did not do enough as an opposition party to try to oppose their actions. Beyond this it is far from clear as to how much Pelosi or other Democrats knew about specifics such as waterboarding. Any investigations should address failings on the parts of members of both political parties.

Congress should certainly investigate what occurred as this is one of its functions, but the questions raised about Pelosi do show that we might not be able to count on Congress to investigate fully. Any investigation as to what went wrong in these dark years of our history should include why our two-party system failed us at a  time when we needed an opposition party to do whatever was possible to block and expose criminal acts.

Besides any investigations initiated by Congress, a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate crimes committed by the Bush administration. As many of the problems, including possible inaction by the Democratic leaders, might be worthy of  exposure but do not constitute criminal acts, perhaps some sort of independent truth commission is also needed. As occurred during the Watergate era, it is also possible that some of the truth might come out from investigative journalists. Unfortunately journalism today is weaker and we do not have the smoking gun of incriminating tapes in the White House. It is possible that some former members of the Bush administration will talk and act as a modern day Deep Throats.

Pete Hoekstra Cannot Keep a Secret

I’ve previously expressed my happiness that my Congressman will not be running for reelection when his current term ends. Pete Hoekstra is in the news once again, this time for revealing secret information on Twitter. Congressional Quarterly reports:

A congressional trip to Iraq this weekend was supposed to be a secret.

But the cat’s out of the bag now, thanks to a member of the House Intelligence Committee who broke an embargo via Twitter.

A delegation led by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, arrived in Iraq earlier today, and because of Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the entire world — or at least Twitter.com readers—now know they’re there.

“Just landed in Baghdad,” messaged Hoekstra, a former chairman of the Intelligence panel and now the ranking member, who is routinely entrusted to keep some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets.

Before the delegation left Washington, they were advised to keep the trip to themselves for security reasons. A few media outlets, including Congressional Quarterly, learned about it, but agreed not to disclose anything until the delegation had left Iraq.

Nobody expected, though, that a lawmaker with such an extensive national security background would be the first to break the silence. And in such a big way.

Not only did Hoekstra reveal the existence of the lawmakers’ trip, but included details about their itinerary in updates posted every few hours on his Twitter page, until he suddenly stopped, for some reason, on Friday morning.

Think Progress points out an op-ed which Hoekstra wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 2006 on the importance of keeping secrets safe.

But every time classified national security information is leaked, our ability to gather information on those who would do us harm is eroded. … I regret that I see little sign of intolerance for unauthorized disclosures of intelligence to the media from some of my Democratic colleagues today. … We are a nation at war. Unauthorized disclosures of classified information only help terrorists and our enemies – and put American lives at risk.

Rather than worrying so much about whether Obama would have a BlackBerry, they should have been keeping an eye on Pete Hoekstra’s Twitter account.

Finally Getting Rid of Pete

The Hill has picked up a story in the local newspapers yesterday that my Congressman, Pete Hoekstra, plans to retire at the end of this term. They raise the possibility that he might be planning to run for governor in 2010 when Jennifer Granholm is prevented from running again due to term limits. Many people in both parties are already being mentioned as possible candidates and Hoekstra will not have an easy time winning the Republican nomination. He might be willing to gamble on this as opposed to remaining in the House as a member of the minority party.

Among the reasons I’d be happy to see Hoekstra go was his discredited claims to have found evidence of WND in Iraq in 2006.

Several Democratic blogs are encouraged by the possibility of winning another seat in 2010, often citing this portion of the article:

The battle to replace Hoekstra could give Democrats an opportunity to contest another Michigan congressional seat. His district, based on the shores of Lake Michigan, gave President Bush 60 percent of the vote in 2004, but John McCain won just 50.8 percent of the vote in 2008.

Chances will certainly be better if they don’t have to run against an incumbent, but this seat will still be hard to pick up. Democrats did well in the Congressional races nationally for two cycles but unless Obama and the Democratic Congress are extraordinarily popular in 2010, odds are that the Republicans will regain some seats in the next off year election.

It is far too soon to predict what will happen in two years but I suspect that limiting McCain to 50.8 percent of the vote in a state he was not contesting by the end is hardly a sign that this Republican area will go Democratic in a House race. Hoekstra won reelection with 62% of the vote despite the weakness at the top of the Republican ticket.

Predictions based upon the odds for a generic Democrat versus a generic Republican might not hold up should the Democrats manage to run a far better candidate than the Republicans (keeping in mind that this area is generally happy with most Republicans).

Republicans Ignore Another National Security Threat

Republicans have a great record at ignoring threats to our national security. They opposed Clinton’s actions against al Qaeda when he was President. When Bush took office, his administration ignored the plans passed on from the Clinton administration, not believing that a non-govenment group could pose a serious threat. Bush ignored warnings, including the daily intelligence brief, warning of an attack, presumably because he didn’t want to interupt his vacation and risk not making the Guinsess Book of World Records for head of state spending the most time goofing off. We now have a threat which is potentially even more dangerous than al Qaeda, but the Republicans again choose to stick their heads in the sand and ignore it.

While scientists world wide are warning of the serious consequences if no action is taken against global warming, conservatives choose to ignore the scientific consensus and pretend the problem is not real. Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, has advised otherwise:

Stepping into the middle of a partisan debate on Capitol Hill, the United States’ top intelligence official has endorsed a comprehensive study by spy agencies about the impact of global warming on national security.

In a letter written earlier this week to the House Intelligence Committee, the official, Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, said it was “entirely appropriate” that the intelligence community prepare an assessment of the “geopolitical and security implications of global climate change.”

Republicans, including my own idiot Congressman, have been blocking such an assessment:

A provision requiring a national intelligence estimate on climate change was in the 2008 intelligence authorization bill that the House passed early Friday morning. The exact amount of the authorization is classified, but it is believed to be approximately $48 billion, which would be the largest intelligence authorization ever considered by Congress.

Republicans had tried to defeat the provision on the national intelligence estimate, saying that intelligence resources were too precious to be used to study the impact of climate change.

“Let other federal agencies, as more than a dozen already do, cover the ‘bugs and bunnies.’ But let our spies be spies,” Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote Thursday in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article.

The Republican position differs from the advice from both McConnell and from a a recent report written by several retired generals and admirals:

But intelligence officials have already recognized the importance of studying how crises caused by climate change, like famine and rising sea levels, could affect the United States’ security. Even as Congress was debating whether to order a national intelligence estimate, intelligence agencies had already planned to include a discussion of global warming in a report next year on the main security challenges facing the United States through 2025.

The proposed national intelligence estimate would project the impact of global warming over the next three decades, examining political, social, economic and agricultural risks.

In his letter to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. McConnell said that intelligence analysts would not do primary scientific research about climate change, but would instead rely on analyses by other government agencies for global warming projections.

Last month, a report written by several retired generals and admirals concluded that climate changes posed a “serious threat to America’s national security,” and could further weaken already unstable governments in developing countries.

Hoekstra Should Practice What He Preaches Regarding Unfounded Terrorist Threats

Congressman Peter Hoekstra should practice what he preaches. While in Muskegon yesterday, Hoekstra spoke about terrorist threats, but also cautioned against making the mistakes seen when inaccurate reports were released of a terrorist plot against the Mackinac Bridge:

“There may have been some folks who jumped to some conclusions a little too early. I don’t know if they overreacted. They just would have been better off waiting a little big longer. They may have felt the thrill of victory — ‘Hey, we just thwarted a terrorist plot’ — but you should get your information before going public.”

Perhaps Hoekstra should have thought of this before joining Rick Santorum in making discredited claims that WMD was found in Iraq last June.