- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In disparaging the CIA and accusing the agency of lying last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a “wrecking ball” to the morale of officers risking their lives in the field, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee said Tuesday.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, also told The Washington Times he thinks that President Obama will not be able to keep his promise to close the detention facility for terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by January, saying the president has come to realize that other countries won’t take the detainees and that the detainees are too dangerous to house in the U.S.

Mr. Hoekstra’s comments came as Senate Democrats broke with Mr. Obama over funds to close the detention camp, refusing to bankroll the project until the White House presents a plan for relocating hundreds of terrorism suspects imprisoned there.

In an interview with editors and reporters, Mr. Hoekstra said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, hasn’t done anything illegal that would disqualify her from being speaker, but said Democrats will have to decide whether she is the right person to lead them. Still, he said, from his standpoint, she has endangered the country.

“She has single-handedly become a wrecking ball, a wrecking crew through the morale of the intelligence community,” he said. “These are people that have been on the front lines. They have seen their friends die, and they have taken risks to keep America safe, and this speaker has now said you may be prosecuted.”

The congressman, who is retiring at the end of this term and is running for governor of Michigan, also had critical words for his party, saying Republicans aren’t ready to take bold stands, and it is costing them politically among voters eager for reform.

“In ‘93 and ‘94, we took the bold steps to be able to capture that, and people saw us as part of the solution and not part of the problem,” he said. “Right now, that opportunity exists, but I’m not sure we’re willing to take bold enough stands that people see us being the agent of change they’re looking for.”

He said the government should stop siphoning transportation money to Washington to dole out to bad projects like the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” or to the “turtle fence” in his district that keeps the reptiles from being squashed by cars on a road. He also said people are “as mad as they can get” over the state of public education, and said Republicans should abandon the “sellout of core Republican values” embodied by President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program, which created a larger federal role in education.

As for Mr. Obama, Mr. Hoekstra said the president has gotten a wake-up call since taking office on issues such as closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay or creating military commissions to hold trials for some detainees.

“What he found out was, when he became president and had the responsibility, it’s like, ‘Wow - you mean if I go and schmooze with the Europeans, they won’t take 20 [detainees]? If I have a nice dinner with [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy, he won’t take 20 of the guys from Gitmo?”

He said given the information that Mr. Obama has now learned about the dangers posed by detainees, “I think January 23 of 2010, I expect Gitmo will still be open.”

Mr. Hoekstra, in his ninth term, has been the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence since 2004.

In recent weeks, that’s put him in the center of the controversy over interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects, and he has become a chief critic of Mrs. Pelosi, who he said has demoralized CIA officers.

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