Benjamin Netanyahu: We must all stand together to stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
Hayworth: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before Congress earlier this year. Seems the Obama administration was so concerned he might change some lawmakers' minds about the Iran deal, the National Security Agency was allowed to spy on him, and in the process netted some private communications between Israeli leaders and members of Congress. To understand why this is causing concerns inside the Beltway and beyond, we're joined by the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra. Pete, we appreciate you coming on. Also, he's the author of a book called Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya. He joins us now via Skype from Michigan.
Pete, again, thanks for being here.
Hoekstra: Good to be with you, thank you.
Hayworth: All right, so, the president didn't want Netanyahu to speak. The president then – because he said he didn't tell the NSA to spy on him [Netanyahu], but somehow they started spying on him. First of all, what's worse, the president allowed them to spy or eavesdrop on a head of state, something he promised to curtail a couple of years ago, or that they recorded members of Congress? Which one?
Hoekstra: That he recorded members of Congress. Spying on our allies, whether they're in Europe, whether they're in Asia, the Middle East, it's something that all spy agencies and all countries do. They spy on each other.
Hayworth: Would the NSA, Pete, do you think the NSA would have done this on their own, or do you think a high-level person in the administration said, 'yeah, wink-wink, nod-nod, go do this'?"
Hoekstra: Well, when the NSA gets an assignment to go spy on a certain country or a certain individual, they're a national treasure. They're really good at what they do. They're the best in the world. So they go in and they vacuum clean up all of this information. And, of course, in that there's going to be conversations – in this case, between Israeli government officials and American citizens and members of Congress. NSA needs to do what they call 'minimize.' Actually, they just need to take that information and they need to trash it.
Members of Congress, American citizens, they are protected by the Constitution. NSA can't get this information. When they collect it inadvertently, they should destroy it.
Hayworth: It's Congressman Pete Hoekstra. You know, Pete, I've got to ask you, what's the problem that this president has with Netanyahu, or his problem with Israel? Or is it both? Because there seems to be a strained relationship now for seven strong years.
Hoekstra: Well, it's a strained relationship because the prime minister in Israel doesn't agree with this president's foreign policies. He believes that the foreign policy of this administration jeopardizes the very existence of the State of Israel. He's doing everything that he can to protect his nation-state. That's his assignment as the head of state in Israel.
Hayworth: House Speaker Paul Ryan's office looking into this, but what can or should Congress even do?
Hoekstra: Clearly, they should have the intelligence committees do oversight hearings. They should demand an independent investigation through the IG – inspector general – of these different agencies. They need to find out exactly what happened. I think what happened is this information went from NSA, went to the White House, and the White House then used it to formulate and to push its political agenda on Capitol Hill with this inside information.
It is absolutely outrageous and it's probably the biggest scandal of this president's administration.
Hayworth: I couldn't disagree with you. I want to move on quickly to another subject – less than a minute left – we seem to be having a good deal of success targeting leaders of ISIS lately, as well as Iraqi forces retaking Ramadi. So, is this a turning point in the fight against terror, and is President Obama's foreign policy actually working?
Hoekstra: No. We're seeing some progress but to say that we've reached a turning point, no way. When you see all the different kind of attacks that are being thwarted around the world, ISIS is still a very, very potent force. We have not turned the corner on ISIS yet.
Hayworth: And by the way, al-Qaida is starting to pop its head up again in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We didn't see that coming, did we?
Hoekstra: Probably not. This administration – [it] doesn't fit their narrative. Al-Qaida is over as far as their concerned.
Hayworth: The name of the book is the Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya. Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, thanks so much for your time today.
Hoekstra: Hey, great, thank you. Happy New Year.
Hayworth: Right back at you.