Defense & National Security

An Intelligent Oversight

You’re in good hands with the Democrats in charge of the Congress.

As an example, take a look at Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the incoming chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

In a wide-ranging interview with Congressional Quarterly, Reyes, who will oversee operations of the nation’s intelligence agencies, was asked some questions that proved embarrassing.

Is al-Qaida a Sunni organization or Shiite?

"Predominantly — probably Shiite," he said.

Wrong — as even any casual reader of the Washington Post or New York Times would know.

In fact, the quagmire in Iraq is largely a result of sectarian fighting between Sunni factions allied with al-Qaida and Shiites allied with Iran. You would think an incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee would have this kind of basic background knowledge — even before the first briefing takes place.

But you would be wrong. There is literally no way to underestimate the wisdom of the new majority in Congress.

Reyes’ problems, by the way, didn’t end with his lack of knowledge about America’s No. 1 enemy — al-Qaida.

He was asked to describe the terrorist group Hezbollah in the same Congressional Quarterly interview. His response?

"Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah. Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?"

Amazing. Scary. Embarrassing. Worrisome.

Keep in mind, this guy has already been on the House Intelligence Committee for years. What has he learned while there? Has he been listening? Has he been dozing? Has he been reading his backgrounders? Has he been relying on staff or leadership to tell him how to vote?

Also, keep in mind that Reyes didn’t just get the job as a result of seniority. Actually, he is third in line for the job by that standard. First in line was Rep. Jane Harman of California, a moderate who actually knows something about intelligence and the world around us. But incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi couldn’t have someone heading an important committee who thought for herself, who came to independent conclusions and who could tell a Sunni from a Shiite.

So, Pelosi leaned toward the No. 2 choice — Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida. She probably would have chosen him for the job had it not been for the reminders that the former judge had been impeached in a bribery scandal — not exactly a man of high ethical character and reputation.

Reyes was next in line. And that’s how we got a know-nothing in charge of the House Intelligence Committee.

If it’s any consolation, after consulting with his staff after the publication of the Congressional Quarterly interview, Reyes issued the following statement: "As a member of the intelligence committee since before 9/11, I’m acutely aware of al-Qaida’s desire to harm Americans. The intelligence committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us."

Wouldn’t you like to know what those priorities are?

Wouldn’t you like to see Reyes march out in front of the American people without a script and enunciate the pressing issues facing this country?

Wouldn’t that be an eye-opener?

Wouldn’t that be an education?

Do the American people deserve any less?

Well, maybe they do. After all, it was the American people who rendered their judgment at the polls in November and handed the Democrats the reins of power in both the House and Senate.

We reap what we sow.


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