'Totally disgusting:’ Ex-House Intel chairman blasts FBI for censorship, election meddling

"There should be people going to jail for what they were doing," said former Rep. Pete Hoekstra.

Updated: January 6, 2023 - 11:18pm

The former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says revelations that the FBI and intelligence community were pressuring social media companies to censor Americans' opinions is "totally disgusting" and should result in the punishment of officials and wholesale reform of agencies.

"From my perspective, there should be people going to jail for what they were doing," retired Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra told Just the News in a wide-ranging interview Friday. "This is scary for the American people that our intelligence community is being used to target Americans and to censor Americans' speech. Government has no role there. The intelligence community has absolutely no role."

Hoekstra, who led the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007 and later served as U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands, said the revelations from Elon Musk's Twitter files and a federal lawsuit brought by the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general show that U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI exceeded their legal authorities by monitoring Americans' social media posts and then pressuring social media companies to use their terms of service to censor opinions, most often conservative ones.

As examples, he cited revelations that the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence were meeting routinely with Big Tech and that classified information was discussed as being shared. He also slammed one of his successors as House Intelligence chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, for trying to get an American journalist deplatformed.

"It's totally disgusting," Hoekstra said in an interview on the John Solomon Reports podcast. "The intelligence community operates by a set of rules that says you operate outside of the United States, you do not operate against Americans inside of our borders. You do not operate against Americans outside of our borders. You are foreign intelligence. It's absolutely outrageous. And remember, a lot of this happened under a Republican administration. This happened under Donald Trump. The Director of National Intelligence, his office, is meeting, weekly, with Twitter and who knows who else?

"And then you've got the chairman of the Intelligence Committee sending notes over to Twitter. It is totally corrupt. And when Republicans get back the White House, there has to be a wholesale cleaning house of what's going on in the intelligence community."

Some in the intelligence community have tried to push back in recent days against the Twitter files revelations, without disputing they had contacts with Big Tech as revealed in the memos. Former Trump Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, for example, said the memos' references to DNI meetings with Twitter executives would not have involved content moderation or "anything to do with specifically about the Biden laptop as Russian disinformation."

And the FBI said its contacts with social media were routine and involved highlighting content without a direct order to censor.

"We are providing it so that they can take whatever action they deem appropriate under their terms of service to protect their platform and protect their customers," the bureau said late last month. "But we never direct or ask them to take action."

Hoekstra said he was disturbed by the FBI statement, which seemed to condone agents highlighting content for possible censorship.

"Obviously," Hoekstra said, the statement "sanctions and says it's okay. And it's like, no, it's not. I'm sorry, Director Wray — because the Intelligence Committee, we also have oversight for foreign intelligence, the foreign intelligence that the FBI plays a role in — no, you're not sanctioned to do this."

Other FBI experts, like former Assistant Director Chris Swecker, share Hoekstra's concerns.

"The FBI has an industry outreach program to help exchange information with industry, helping in the counterintelligence efforts of the FBI," Swecker told Just the News. "This has gone well beyond that. This is nothing but domestic spying, and this is nothing but suppression of First Amendment rights and ideas."

Hoekstra said he was amazed more advocates of free speech, like news media companies, have not spoken out against what has been revealed.

"Where is the outrage from the American people?" he asked. "Where's the outrage, even from the media? Hey, guys, we were being played for suckers by the intelligence community and the FBI. Where's the clamor for free speech?"

He added that the evidence thus far suggests much of the targeting during the 2020 election involved censoring conservative opinions or suppressing news damaging to Democrats, like the Hunter Biden laptop story.

"It's government run amok and fuels the whole narrative that the 2020 election was manipulated and stolen,” he said.