Host: All right, well as you may imagine acquiring and using international intelligence can be tricky enough, but when millions of lives potentially hang in the balance the United States cannot afford to have any intelligence compromised. Our next guest has some special insight into why this concept is becoming more important with each passing day that ISIS in particular remains a problem. We have on the line with us now none other than Pete Hoekstra, Shillman Senior Fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, former Chair of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, and my much younger brother. Right, Pete?
Hoekstra: That's exactly right. Hi Kathy, good morning.
Host: Hey, it's been a long time since we've spoken with you but you have not let up since your days at the US House Intelligence Committee, right?
Hoekstra: Well that's right. I'm spending a lot of time with Steve Emerson at the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Steve and the organization have really been at the forefront of identifying and developing strategies to confront the threat from radical jihadists. So it was a great place to land after Congress.
Host: Right. And of course with all of, everything that you've learned and did when you were on the committee, bringing that with you. Now we are coming to some claims that Central Command has been cooking the books on ISIS. Talk about that.
Hoekstra: I think there are a lot of people who are just frustrated in the intelligence community, in the military, and the American people at large. We're frustrated. Fourteen years after 9/11 we appear to be losing this war against radical jihadists, radical Islamists. And so people are naturally frustrated and there's some finger pointing going on. And what you have in this case is you've got collectors. These are people who are collecting raw intelligence. These are the people that are in CENTCOM and they're collecting raw intelligence as to what's going on in Syria, what's going on in Iraq, what's the estimated strength of ISIS and other radical jihadist groups, what's the strength of Bashir Assad forces and those kinds of things. They then take this information and they pass it up the command chain and then it gets into the hands of analysts who take data that comes from multiple different sources, and these analysts prepare reports that go to policy makers. And there are folks that are now saying, 'Hey, the intelligence has just been wrong in ISIS and we need to improve our intelligence.' And it appears that they're getting a little bit of a rebellion from the collectors, people that are actually on the ground and they're saying, 'Wait a minute. We're not the ones that told you that ISIS was contained. We're not the ones that told you that ISIS was the JV team. We're giving you real intelligence.' What these whistle-blowers I think are saying is we were giving you real hard data. It might not have fit your narrative, but we were telling you this was a threat, that this thing had metastasized, it was growing, and it potentially could get to the point where it could create a caliphate that we see today which is the size of the state of Indiana.
Host: Right. And what you're saying now, too, is you know what, those collectors or whistle-blowers if you will, they need protections now too because it's bad enough that we're up against these things, ISIS, but we're up against our own narrative that's coming out of Washington.
Hoekstra: Absolutely. Whistle-blowers are absolutely essential, especially when you have an executive branch that is getting more and more power vis-à-vis Congress. We've got the example here with the Benghazi Committee. Whether you think it's an appropriate investigation or not doesn't really matter. But what we do know is that in many of the requests for information that they've had for – and I just met with some of these folks yesterday – they've asked the CIA for lots of information. The CIA has said we're not going to give it to you. They've asked State Department for lots of information. State Department say we're not giving it to you. And so you not only need whistle-blowers to expose potential wrongdoing, you also need whistle-blowers to come forward when the agencies are stonewalling, so that Congress and the American people can get all of the data. The ironic thing is in the intelligence community, if you work for the CIA and if you want to be a whistle-blower you've got to go talk to your boss first. Can you imagine that discussion?
Host: Wow, no I can't.
Hoekstra: And then you can go talk to the IG and then they may give you permission to go talk to Congress. In every other agency, if you believe there's wrongdoing going on in the agency that you're working for, you can go directly to the congressional committee that is responsible for oversight of your agency. You can't do that in the intelligence community. They've got to put protections in place so that whistle-blowers can go directly through Congress without having to go to their boss and say, 'I hate to tell you this but this group that you're managing, there's some really bad stuff going on here and I'd like to go talk to Congress.' And their boss will of course say, 'We'll take care of it, we'll fix it right here, you don't need to go anywhere.'
Host: How difficult is that job? I would imagine made even more difficult when you have sort of a Homeland mentality through the country. I watch Homeland, I like it a lot, but there's so much more involved when you're dealing with trying to get information from somebody.
Hoekstra: There's a tremendous amount involved. Number one, the people who become whistle-blowers are taking great risk. They jeopardize their professional career. They also jeopardize just their livelihood at any given time. They may be fired for this if they don't have the protection. And it's absolutely essential, this whole thing with, it's essential for Congress to be able to do its job. This accusation from CENTCOM, I mean this is really very, very serious. If people were cooking the books, taking intel and modifying it to fit the president's narrative, wow! That means we may have created the environment where we actually knew that ISIS was a threat but we cooked the intelligence so that we really didn't do anything about it. And look at the mess that we're in now. Obviously when a whistle-blower comes to Congress, makes these serious accusations, Congress is gonna have to take a look at it and see whether it's valid or not. You could have some disgruntled employee who's saying this, but I think what you're seeing from CENTCOM that makes it different is that you're seeing a whole lot of people coming forward and saying, 'Hey this intelligence system has been bastardized and someone is taking it and doing something with our intelligence that shouldn't be done.'
Host: Pete Hoekstra, former congressman right now with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. And we can read your piece, the November 30 piece in the Daily Caller talking a little bit more about this. But we need to let you go. But always great to talk with you, always great to have my little brother on the program. And you know coming up on this time of year I'm gonna get all kinds of holiday wishes for my husband and me. So there you go. Well thank you so much Pete. We appreciate it and keep in touch.
Hoekstra: All right. Goodbye.
Host: And you are listening to the Frank Beckmann Show on WJR.