The Magazine

Who'll Let the Docs Out?

Bush wants to release the Saddam files but his intelligence chief stalls.

Mar 20, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 25 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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This is not idle speculation. In meetings with Hoekstra, Negroponte and his staff have repeatedly expressed concern that releasing this information might embarrass our allies. Who does Negroponte have in mind?

Allies like Russia?

Hoekstra says Negroponte's intransigence is forcing him to get the documents out "the hard way." The House Intelligence chairman has introduced a bill (H.R. 4869) that would require the DNI to begin releasing the captured documents. Although Negroponte continues to argue against releasing the documents in internal discussions, on March 9, he approached Hoekstra with a counterproposal. Negroponte offered to release some documents labeled "No Intelligence Value," and indicated his willingness to review other documents for potential release, subject to a scrub for sensitive material.

And there, of course, is the potential problem. Negroponte could have been releasing this information all along, but chose not to. So, in a way, nothing really changes. Still, for Hoekstra, this is the first sign of any willingness to release the documents.

"I'm encouraged that John is taking another look at it," Hoekstra said last Thursday. "But I want a system that is biased in favor of declassification. I want some assurance that they aren't just picking the stuff that's garbage and releasing that. If we're only declassifying maps of Baghdad, I'm not going to be happy."

He continued: "There may be many documents that relate to Iraqi WMD programs. Those should be released. Same thing with documents that show links to terrorism. They have to release documents on topics of interest to the American people and they have to give me some kind of schedule. What's the time frame? I don't have any idea."

Hoekstra is not going away. "We're going to ride herd on this. This is a step in the right direction, but I am in no way claiming victory. I want these documents out."

So does President Bush. You'd think that would settle it.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.