WASHINGTON (AP) - The top Republican on the House intelligence committee landed inhot water this week after using his Twitter pageto update the public on his precise whereabouts while travelingthrough Iraq and Afghanistan.
The revelation prompted the Pentagon to review its policy, whichregards such information as sensitive, and lit up the liberalblogosphere with accusations of hypocrisy.
Rep. PeteHoekstra says he did nothing wrong. He pointed to announcementsby other high-ranking officials, including House Speaker NancyPelosi, which list the countries they plan to visit.
"The policy that we have and that we did on this trip isconsistent and well restrained from what other folks have done inthe past," said Hoekstra, R-Mich.
But Hoekstra, who has decried the unauthorized leaking ofclassified information, provided far more details than a generalitinerary, including at least a 12-hour heads-up that he was headedto Iraq.
Twitter is a Web site that enables a person to broadcast shorttext updates, called "tweets," using a phone or computer. Theupdates are published on their online Twitter page and sentdirectly to anyone who signs up to receive them.
"Just landed in Baghdad," the congressman declared on Feb. 5 at9:41 p.m.
By 11:56 p.m., the public was given this more precise update:"Moved into green zone by helicopter, Iraqi flag now over palace.Headed to new U.S. embassy. Appears calmer, less chaotic thanprevious here."
Hoekstra later told reporters that his posts might not have beenaccurate. When asked if they were, he said he didn't remember.
"You don't know it's the exact time," Hoekstra said of hisTwitter posts. "You don't know whether I sent that the minute I gotin the car, whether it's halfway to the embassy or after I gotthat."
The episode showcases how eager lawmakers are to usesocial-networking technology, blogs and other popular sites toconnect directly with voters. Congressional staffers say they arebeing told by their bosses to find new ways to get out theirtalking points and to no longer rely solely on traditional mediaoutlets like newspapers, which might edit or distort theirviews.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, for example, recentlyposted on YouTube.com a lengthy monologue from Guantanamo Bay,Cuba, on why the military prison there should remain open.
Hoekstra is among those taking the lead in Congress when itcomes to using multimedia technology to promote his work. On hisWeb page, one can "listen to Pete's latest podcast," download hislatest television interview on Fox News and view pictures of himmaking pit stops on a trip throughout his district via aninteractive map.
Along with many other members of Congress, Hoekstra alsomaintains a public profile on Facebook, where those who sign up as"friends" of the congressman can post their personal thoughts tohis virtual wall.
And then there is Hoekstra's Twitter page. The updates on theIraq trip were first reported by the trade publicationCongressional Quarterly.
Hoekstra said he has "no idea" whether his military escorts knewhe was updating his Twitter page and was never asked to stop. Healso said he did not believe his twittering habit was in violationof any policy.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Cdr. Darryn James said it is generalDefense Department policy not to disclose details of congressionaldelegations until they reach their destination. The Pentagon is nowreviewing whether it needs to communicate that policy differentlyin light of technologies like Twitter, he said.
James could not immediately confirm whether Hoekstra had beentold specifically not to provide location updates.
"In general, we do brief all the codels (congressionaldelegations) on the risk," he said.
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