WASHINGTON – House Republicans showed irritation Thursday over what they believed was a less-than-top-notch effort at briefing them on new intelligence rules approved by the president.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was briefing the House Intelligence Committee Thursday morning, but the GOP members walked out in protest. They said the only information they were given was a 40-page document at the beginning of the meeting — even as media reports said House members had been advised of the new changes beforehand.
The Republicans told McConnell it was a waste of time and they could not have a constructive dialogue before skipping the briefing.
Jamal Ware, spokesman for Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the committee, described to the walkout as "huge."
"It's one of the ways Republicans can register their protest on the failure on national security. This is about Congress trying to stay involved in overseeing national security," Ware said, adding: "They were blindsided by not being able to review and receive feedback on the executive order."
The order approved by President Bush rewrites the rules governing spying by U.S. intelligence agencies, both in the United States and abroad, and strengthens the authority of the national intelligence director.
Executive Order 12333, which lays out the responsibilities of each of the 16 agencies, gives the national intelligence director new authority over any intelligence information collected that pertains to more than one agency — an attempt to force greater information exchange among agencies traditionally reluctant to share their most prized intelligence.
The order also directs the attorney general to develop guidelines to allow agencies access to information held by other agencies. That could potentially include the sharing of sensitive information about Americans.
FOX News' Jim Angle and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.