Over the weekend, a controversy–started on the Internet and fueled by reporting on the Internet–has surrounded West Michigan Congress member Pete Hoekstra. Hoesktra–who is the Ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and its former Chair–is accused of violating disclosure policy regarding a trip to Iraq.
Hoekstra used the micro-blogging service Twitter to post updates about his trip.
Experienced Politician Violating Security Procedures?
On Friday, CQ Politics reported that Republican Pete Hoekstra had violated an embargo on what was supposed to be a secret trip to Iraq:
“‘Just landed in Baghdad,’ messaged Hoekstra, a former chairman of the Intelligence panel and now the ranking member, who is routinely entrusted to keep some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets.
Before the delegation left Washington, they were advised to keep the trip to themselves for security reasons. A few media outlets, including Congressional Quarterly, learned about it, but agreed not to disclose anything until the delegation had left Iraq.
Nobody expected, though, that a lawmaker with such an extensive national security background would be the first to break the silence. And in such a big way.
Not only did Hoekstra reveal the existence of the lawmakers’ trip, but included details about their itinerary in updates posted every few hours on his Twitter page, until he suddenly stopped, for some reason, on Friday morning.”
Aside from the fact that he violated an embargo on this trip, several bloggers have uncovered an editorial he wrote back in 2006 that derided the release of classified information:
“WE ARE IN the first war of the Information Age, and we have a critical advantage over our enemy: We are far better at gathering intelligence. It’s an advantage we must utilize, and it’s keeping us safe.
But every time classified national security information is leaked, our ability to gather information on those who would do us harm is eroded…
We are a nation at war. Unauthorized disclosures of classified information only help terrorists and our enemies – and put American lives at risk.”
No Apologies from Hoekstra
Despite the heat that Hoekstra has drawn for the Twitter posts, he will not apologize for the posts. He said that his posts did not endanger himself or others on the trip:
“‘It doesn’t say I’m arriving at the embassy at 10 of 5 and this is the road I’m taking,’ Hoekstra said. ‘I think the bad guys already knew there was Blackberry service, and my guess is they probably already knew the Iraqi flag was flying over the palace.’
Hoekstra said he did not post as many updates after the delegation left the international Green Zone and entered the more dangerous areas of Iraq, where Blackberry service was less reliable anyway.
‘I didn’t Twitter that because that’s a different environment,’ Hoekstra said.”
On WOOD TV 8, Hoekstra’s spokesperson–Dave Yonkman–downplayed the messages and saying that Twitter allows Hoesktra to be more transparent.
Yonkman further said that the fact that what the media is missing is that this is a story of success in Iraq. He asserted that a few years ago this would not have been possible and that this is proof that the situation is improving in Iraq.
Hoekstra’s Twitter Debacle: A Success for New Media?
Regardless of what folks think about the role that Hoekstra’s Twitter postings will have on his run for governor in 2010, it does show the success that so-called “new media” can have in pushing stories into the mainstream. What began with an article on a website that many of his constituents likely don’t read, ended up moving into the mainstream. In the end, what began as a concern raised largely by the liberal blogosphere became a subject of mainstream news–and eventually garnered a response from Hoekstra.