House intelligence chairman: U.S. should declassify millions

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House intelligence chairman: U.S. should declassify millions of Iraqi documents

By KATHERINE SHRADER - Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - (AP) House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter
Hoekstra wants to declassify millions of pages of untranslated documents
from Iraq collected by the U.S. government over more than a decade.
The Michigan Republican says it's a way to learn what's inside more
than 35,000 boxes that haven't been translated because the government
doesn't have enough Arabic linguists with security clearances.
"Most people have acknowledged that we are never going to get
through them," he said of the boxes. He's hoping to work with the new Iraqi
government to put the documents online so journalists, academics and other
researchers can sift through them.
Hoekstra has discussed the proposal with senior intelligence
officials and on Friday will call on the intelligence community to issue the
sweeping declassification.
Most of the documents were grabbed during the 2003 Iraq invasion and
quickly classified, even though they were not a product of the U.S.
government. Some date back to the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.
It would be unprecedented to declassify volumes of information
without first scrubbing them for secrets the U.S. may not want revealed.
"There are always excuses not to do this, but I think the benefits
of going through all of these documents far outweigh any risks," Hoekstra
said in an interview.
He said one document came to his attention with information about
the fallen regime's links to terror groups and chemical and biological
weapons, although he doesn't know if the document is authentic.
Such claims have largely been rejected, and the Bush administration
has come under fire for leading the nation to war with flawed intelligence
about the threat posed by then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"I am not asserting that this will prove one thing or another,"
Hoekstra said. "One thing it will surely do is give us a much clearer
insight into what was going on in the former Iraqi regime than we have
The documents, now located in Qatar, were gathered from a number of
Iraqi sources, including the military, health ministries, political
organizations and Saddam's personal collection.
Hoekstra said those from the intelligence agency weren't likely to
be released because they may contain sensitive information, such as the
names of agents working for the former Iraqi regime.
Hoekstra was making his request in a letter to National Intelligence
Director John Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq who became the
nation's spy chief in April.
Through his intelligence panel, Hoekstra is leading a congressional
inquiry into the leaking of classified information. Yet he has stressed his
belief that too much government information is needlessly classified _ a
trend he wants to reverse.