WASHINGTON — Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House’s number two Democrat, explained Tuesday why lawmakers did not go too far when they gave broad authority to intelligence agencies after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“It's important to look back and to see whether or not, you know, we could have acted better, or whether we overreacted, or whether we did things that, upon reflection, we would not or should not have done,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters at his weekly news conference.
“Well, we all look at that, but clearly when you're in an emergency situation -- remember, Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he said. “What does that statement mean? That statement essentially means that you don't think necessarily as rationally as you would otherwise think if you're confronted with a fearful emergency situation. We all know that. Everybody knows that.
“Everybody experiences that in their personal lives,” Hoyer said. “So I think it's appropriate. And oversight, that's what oversight is all about, and I think that we need to be honest in that evaluation, though. Whether we are CIA, the Congress or whoever, or
the administration, we need to be honest in that. And if, in fact, we're not honest with one another, that is a problem in a democracy because you can't make rational decisions based upon dishonest information.”
So, he was asked, did Congress go too far after 9/11?
“I wouldn't say Congress went too far. I would say that in a situation where we just lost 3,000 people, where we had been attacked, where we had major damage, not only the loss of life, but major damage to symbols in our country, it is understandable that you would act quickly without perhaps reflection that you otherwise would give to actions, and we need to look at that. In a more reflective mood, you can see what maybe we could have done better,” Hoyer said.