Lawmaker Says White House Failure to Brief Congress on Intelligence Programs May Have Been Illegal

The White House possibly broke the law by keeping intelligence activities a secret from the lawmakers responsible for overseeing them, the House Intelligence Committee chairman said Sunday.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., said he was informed about the programs by whistleblowers in the intelligence community and then asked the Bush administration about the programs, using code names. Hoekstra said members of the House and Senate intelligence committees then were briefed on the programs, which he said is required by law.

"We can't be briefed on every little thing that they are doing," Hoekstra said. "But in this case, there was at least one major — what I consider significant activity that we have not been briefed on. I want to set the standard there that it is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing," he said on "FOX News Sunday."

Hoekstra complained to President Bush in a letter dated May 18 that was disclosed in Sunday's New York Times.

In the letter, Hoekstra said the failure to brief the intelligence committees "may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of law and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

Frederick Jones, spokesman for Bush's National Security Council, said the only comment the White House would have on the letter was that the administration "will continue to work closely with the chairman and other congressional leaders on important national security issues."

Hoekstra has been critical of the administration before. In his letter, he also objected to the president's nominees for the director and deputy director of the CIA. He also complains about the role of the director of national intelligence — a position created in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.