Hoekstra noted that he had been interviewed by the FBI several years ago as part of an investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of NSA telephone intercepts given to the House-Senate Intelligence Committees’ examination of pre-9/11 intelligence gathering.
But that leak probe was requested by the two chairmen of the joint inquiry, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and former Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), while the current investigation was initiated by the Justice Department just two weeks after the original Times story was published.
“I’ve been interviewed before by [the FBI] on leak cases, so it’s not unprecedented,” said Hoekstra, who served on the 9/11 committee. “We have to make sure what is done now is in agreement with the privileges of the House.”
Hoekstra’s committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on the “on the role and responsibilities of the media in national security reporting.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was one of the first lawmakers briefed on the existence of the NSA surveillance program back in October 2001, did not object to being interviewed by FBI agents.
“It’s not unusual that the investigation would extend to all who were aware of the [NSA] program,” Pelosi said in a statement from her office. “If an interview is requested, I intend to be interviewed.”
Hastert’s office had no comment.
Justice Department and FBI officials were tight-lipped about the leak investigation widening to include Capitol Hill. The New York Times has reported that investigators have interviewed officials at the FBI, NSA, the Justice Department, CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence as part of the probe.
“This is a sensitive and ongoing matter and it would be inappropriate for the FBI to comment on this investigation at this time,” said Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman. The Justice Department also declined to comment.
The Times reported on Dec. 16 that “President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying” shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was among those government officials who expressed concerns about the legality and scope of the NSA effort, the Times reported, although Rockefeller was not in fact told of the program until January 2003. Rockefeller, who was absent from the Senate this week because of health issues, was not available for comment about whether he has been contacted by the FBI.
Initially, only a handful of lawmakers were let in on the details of the NSA’s program. The first Congressional briefing took place on Oct. 25, 2001, and included Pelosi, Goss, Graham and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), then ranking member on Senate Intelligence, according to ONI. Other members of the House and Senate intelligence panels were not informed of the program.
Until the Times ran its story in December 2005, less than a dozen additional lawmakers had been let in on the secret. For instance, Hastert was not briefed until March 2004, as was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.