The Cable

Brennan pushes back on Lieberman over Fort Hood shooting

In a previously undisclosed letter, John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism advisor, pushes back on complaints on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration has not been cooperative with Congress over the Nov. 5 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

"I do not believe this is a fair or accurate assessment," Brennan writes."Starting from the first moments after this tragedy, the President directed us to keep Congress appropriately informed."

Brennan goes on to detail the various briefings members of the administration have given to congressional leaders, committee chairs, and staffers, and promises that  more information from the Pentagon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI is forthcoming.

The letter, addressed to Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, is dated Jan. 27 and was exclusively obtained by The Cable. It is ostensibly a response to a Dec. 3 request by the two senators, who cochair the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, for certain unspecified documents.

To the Army's evident discomfort, Lieberman has suggested repeatedly that the Fort Hood shooting was terrorism, not a random act by a mentally disturbed individual, and vowed to use the committee to fully investigate the incident. The shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, has been linked to Anwar al-Awlaqi -- the radical Yemeni-American cleric who has since become a top "kill or capture" target for U.S. intelligence agencies and Special Forces teams operating in Yemen -- but Hasan showed signs of deep emotional instability before his Nov. 5 attack.

In his letter, Brennan first refers to the massacre as a "tragedy," but he seems to hedge his language here:

The President has a solemn responsibility to protect  this nation from future acts of terrorism. In sharing what we have learned about what happened at Fort Hood, he is confident that we can help prevent such senseless acts of violence in the future."

So which is it? Terrorism or a senseless act of violence?

The Cable

Team Obama convenes major secret meeting on export controls

Top cabinet officials are meeting right now with top lawmakers behind closed doors on Capitol Hill to begin a push for major export control reform.

Administration attendees for the unannounced meeting include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The lawmakers invited include the leadership of both parties and then chairmen and ranking Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, House and Senate Armed Services, and Senate Banking committees, according to an invitation forwarded to The Cable.

The secret meeting was organized by the State Department's legislative affairs office and is being hosted by House Foreign Affairs chairman Howard Berman, D-CA.

"The Administration requested this briefing so Secretary Gates and other senior officials could inform key House and Senate leaders about progress on the President's export control policy review, which the Administration announced last August," said HFA spokeswoman Lynne Weil, when contacted for comment, "The Foreign Affairs Committee has jurisdiction in the House over export control matters, and Chairman Berman is developing legislation in coordination with the White House to overhaul the U.S. export control system."

Some Senate staffers were upset by the secretive nature of the meeting, because staff was excluded and no details were made available in advance of the pow-wow. Republicans are concerned that the Obama administration may be preparing to loosen export control regulations, which they see as a dangerous concession to parts of the business sector that increases risks of technology and innovation losses to countries such as China.

Inside the meeting, administration officials might also raise their concerns about two important issues that are emerging as differences between the Obama administration and Congressional leadership. The Senate is planning to move Iran sanctions legislation whether the White House thinks it's a good idea or not.

Also, the White House is said to be angry at lawmakers for leaking news of the impending announcement of new arms sales to Taiwan. There are rumors that Jones contacted foreign relations committee leadership offices to yesterday to complain about the leaks, but the members declined to take his calls.