In an opinion article published in the New York Post Thursday, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., reported the top-secret budget for human spying had decreased -- the type of detail normally kept under wraps for national security reasons.
"The 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill cut human-intelligence programs," Hoekstra wrote in the piece, in which he also criticized "leaks to the news media."
Formerly the chairman of the intelligence committee, Hoekstra is now its highest ranking Republican. In its recent budget authorizations, that committee kept from public view all figures and most discussion of spending on such classified items as human spying. Hoekstra's apparent slip was first noted on the liberal Web site, Raw Story.
"If Mr. Hoekstra wants to break ranks and disclose that information, that's fine with me," said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert who has long pushed to declassify overall spending on intelligence. "But it is the sort of thing he has harshly criticized in the past."
Indeed, Hoekstra's penchant for openness appears to be selective. He has aggressively attacked unnamed opponents guilty of such leaking, accusing them of "recklessly and illegally" disclosing secrets "for political or other motives" in reports published by his committee.
He's even exacted punishment for suspected transgressions. Last October, Hoekstra stripped the credentials of a Democratic committee aide he believed may have leaked a then-classified document to The New York Times. A month later, he quietly reinstated the aide's access.
Hoekstra spokesman Jamal Ware said his boss' op-ed discussed the spending without disclosing the underlying classified information.
"â€œThis is a partisan push being made by Democrats and their surrogates...there's nothing there," he said. Ware added that he himself had used similar language in a May press release, which stated the intelligence spending bill "cuts human intelligence programs."
Secrets are apparently hard to keep these days. On July 31, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, allegedly disclosed a secret court ruling during a television interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto.
"There's been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States," Boehner said.
Government officials have since confirmed to reporters that Boehner was discussing classified information, although the GOP leader denies it.