The Corner

Truth, Terrorism, and a Free Press

What have we learned in the aftermath of the tragic events at Fort Hood? First, that the American people crave leadership — leadership that is competent and truthful. Second, the awesome power of a free press. And third, that it may take weeks or months to determine whether the Fort Hood shooting could have been averted if the intelligence community, the Defense Department, and the FBI had been communicating effectively.

The American people demand leadership. In the days after the shooting, the Obama administration went through mental gymnastics to discount even the remotest possibility that this event could be related to terrorism. That’s not surprising, since this administration previously tried to ban the word “terrorism” and replace it with the nonsensical phrase “man-made disaster.”

The Obama administration issued these denials despite having substantial information to the contrary — information that was unavailable to the American people. However, as more information has been made public, it has become increasingly clear that Obama-administration officials are presenting the world as they want it to be, not as it is. It is also clear that the American people are not being fooled. In a recent Rasmussen poll, more than 60 percent of Americans said the Fort Hood shooting should be investigated as a terrorist act. The Obama administration’s stubborn refusal, as exemplified in this case, to acknowledge the real threat of terrorism, has further weakened its credibility and shaken Americans’ belief in the president’s ability to keep their country safe.

In the days after the Fort Hood shooting, I was denied the briefings I am entitled to as the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. I should note that the Bush administration on several occasions also failed to provide key briefings to the congressional intelligence committees, and that I have sharply criticized both President Bush and President Obama for not meeting the spirit of the law, which requires the executive branch to keep Congress fully and currently informed of national-security matters. The refusal by both administrations to meet this legal obligation was unacceptable, and it set off red flags. Were they hiding something? Did they not have enough “spin” to answer the tough questions that would come if Congress were briefed fully?

The press has not been cooperating with the Obama administration’s effort to keep a lid on the Fort Hood story. Over the past week, using “sources” and open-source materials, Congress has learned much more about this story from the news media than from the Obama administration. While the administration develops its spin, the media have provided facts and insights. They’ve kept the ball moving, doing the essential oversight work that congressional Democrats have been unwilling to do. Although the media didn’t get this story completely right, they provided an essential service, and I thank them. They supplied crucial data points, which Congress needed and which the Obama administration has refused to provide.

Congress now needs to lead and do the hard work of effective oversight. We need to get answers to difficult questions about the Fort Hood shooting.

As we get these answers, we have to be transparent with the American people. They need to understand why this happened and be informed about any mistakes that were made. They need to be educated about the threats we face and how we will deal with them.

– Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R., Mich.) is the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.