THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Congressman's online Twitter posts raise security concerns

By Anne Flaherty
Associated Press / February 12, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The top Republican on the House intelligence committee landed in hot water this week after using his Twitter page to update the public on his precise whereabouts while traveling through Iraq and Afghanistan.

The disclosure prompted the Pentagon to review its policy, which regards such information as sensitive, and lit up the liberal blogosphere with accusations of hypocrisy.

Representative Pete Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, says he did nothing wrong. He pointed to announcements by other high-ranking officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which list the countries they plan to visit.

"The policy that we have and that we did on this trip is consistent and well restrained from what other folks have done in the past," said Hoekstra.

But Hoekstra, who has decried the unauthorized leaking of classified information, provided far more details than a general itinerary, including at least a 12-hour heads-up that he was headed to Iraq.

Twitter is a website that enables a person to broadcast short text updates, called "tweets," using a phone or computer. The updates are published on their online Twitter page and sent directly to anyone who signs up to receive them.

"Just landed in Baghdad," the congressman declared on Feb. 5 at 9:41 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 US Embassy. Appears calmer, less chaotic than previous here."

Hoekstra later told reporters that his posts might not have been accurate. When asked whether they were, he said he didn't remember.

"You don't know it's the exact time," Hoekstra said of his Twitter posts. "You don't know whether I sent that the minute I got in the car, whether it's halfway to the embassy or after I got that."

The episode showcases how eager lawmakers are to use social-networking technology, blogs, and other popular sites to connect directly with voters. Congressional staffers say they are being told by their bosses to find new ways to get out their talking points and to no longer rely solely on traditional media outlets like newspapers, which might edit or distort their views.

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