Lawmaker presses for House inquiry into Intel chair’s national security warning

Last updated on February 15, 2024

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) called on Speaker Mike Johnson to launch a formal inquiry into House Intelligence chair Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) on Thursday after he issued a vague public warning about a national security threat.

Ogles, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, wrote in a letter to Johnson that Turner’s actions were “reckless” and accused him of making the statement in an effort to bolster support for two of his legislative priorities: sending more aid to Ukraine and renewing a controversial surveillance power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“It has become clear that the intent was not to ensure the safety of our homeland and the American people, but rather to ensure additional funding for Ukraine and passage of an unreformed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Ogles wrote.

Turner on Wednesday roiled the Hill with a cryptic statement warning about “a serious national security threat,” and requesting that the White House declassify all information relating to the threat. Two people familiar with the matter
the threat related to Russia’s attempts to develop an antisatellite nuclear weapon for use in space. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Thursday there was a threat pertaining to Russia, but said it was not an “active capability” and that the White House is taking the issue very seriously with the intent to share more information soon.

Turner’s office issued a statement after Ogles’ letter defending the warning on Wednesday.

“The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence worked in consultation with the Biden Administration to notify Congress of this national security threat,” Turner wrote. “In addition, language in the bipartisan notification issued by the Chair and Ranking Member to all Members of the House was cleared by the Administration prior to its release. The House Intelligence Committee voted 23 to 1 to make this information available to Members of Congress. White House officials confirmed that, in their view, the matter was ‘serious’.”

Ogles’ letter comes as House Republicans remain divided over Ukraine funding, with Johnson refusing to bring a Senate-passed $95 billion aid bill, which also includes funds for Israel and Taiwan, to the floor due to conservative opposition. Johnson has said he personally supports aid for Ukraine, but the far-right flank of the party, including Ogles, vocally opposes sending additional aid to the country as it battles Russia.

The House is also debating whether to approve a major change to the foreign surveillance authority, known as Section 702, which has faced backlash because it also sweeps in data from Americans. Turner opposes proposed changes that would require extra legal hurdles for using the authority, arguing it would slow down vital national security work.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday during a White House briefing he was “a bit surprised” by Turner’s public statement, but added: “That’s his choice to do that.”

Matt Berg contributed to this report.