Rep. Pete Hoekstra on Suspending Dem Staffer Over NIE Leak

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 20, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JULIE BANDERAS, GUEST HOST: It's "The Big Story" right here at home: someone leaking a top-secret national security estimate to The New York Times last month. Well today we're learning who that mole may be. A Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee says it was a Democratic staffer. The Times story prompted the president, you remember, to declassify parts of the report so that the public could see what it really said with their own eyes. He also noted the suspicious timing of the leak, wouldn't you know it, just weeks before the midterm elections.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here we are coming down the stretch of an election campaign and it's on the front page of your newspapers, isn't that interesting? Somebody's taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes.


BANDERAS: Well the staffer in question was suspended this week by the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The move, though, has angered many Democrats.

Let's hear from the chairman himself here on "The Big Story." Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra is with me now. And, Congressman, thank you so much for talking to us today.


BANDERAS: OK. So this is a bold act, of course. This man has been suspended and, of course, you know, you're being criticized pretty harshly by many Democrats. Rep. Jane Harman says that you acted without basis. I want everyone to take a look at the exact quote, and then you react.

"The Chairman's unilateral action without basis is an abuse of his power to provide security access. There is no evidence to suggest that the professional staff member in question did anything wrong."

What's your reaction to her comments?

HOEKSTRA: Well, as chairman of the committee, I'm responsible for making sure that the classified and highly secret information that the members and the staff of the committee have access to, that that stuff stays secret. In this specific case, there were red flags raised by the timing and the actions of the individual in question. I've got zero tolerance for leaks coming out of the House Intelligence Committee. I decided to act. I suspended this individual from their access to committee spaces, their access to classified information.

I have not suspended them, you know, without pay and I have not terminated their employment, which are two other options that I could have taken. I took an initial step so that we could conduct an investigation to exactly determine what role this individual might have had in releasing this classified information.

BANDERAS: All right. And FOX has also learned that the staffer in question here, we have got a name, maybe you can confirm it for us here on "The Big Story." Larry Hanauer, a foreign policy staffer who worked in the Pentagon during the Clinton years. Can you confirm that here on FOX?

HOEKSTRA: I'm not going to get into any individual names or whatever. I can tell you it was a Democratic staffer of the committee. This individual had specifically requested this National Intelligence Estimate by title. This thing had been available in the community for a period of six months. When it came into the House Intelligence Committee, within a matter of a couple of days it was on the front page of The New York Times. That's why, along with some other stuff, that's why we're looking at this information and this individual at this time.

BANDERAS: So this is no irony, in fact there is no coincidence, we are 18 days away from the election and you feel that there's some sort of conspiracy here?

HOEKSTRA: I'm not sure exactly what it was. What I'm saying is there were red flags that were initiated. It's my responsibility to respond to those whether they happen directly before an election, whether they happen six months after an election, whenever they occur, I need to act.

We still are a nation at war. We have been damaged by leaks of classified information over the last year-and-a-half. This endangers our men and women overseas. It endangers our effort against radical Islam. These leaks need to stop, wherever they come from and I've instituted a policy of zero tolerance and we're going to act — we're not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt. We are going to act. We will then go through an investigation. If and when they are cleared, they will be reinstated. But the most important thing is that we keep classified information secret. That's our responsibility.

BANDERAS: All right. And Jane Harman also says that essentially there is no evidence, you say there is evidence, but can you exactly tell us what evidence you have or is that classified?

HOEKSTRA: We're going to go through an investigation. We're going to peel back the layers and determine exactly whether this was an interesting coincidence or whether this person actually did something that is inappropriate. We will get to the bottom of this like we have done on other occasions.

BANDERAS: All right. Congressman Pete Hoekstra, thank you very much for talking to us today here on "The Big Story."

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