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Wednesday Nov 29, 2006

What We Need On The Intel Committee

Perhaps the most important positions in the next Congress are the chairs of our intelligence committees.

Specifically because we need to be able to prevent neocons inside and outside the White House from being able to rerun the 2002 Iraq playbook with other possible targets such as Iran.

That means preventing them from being able to inject dubious intelligence into the mainstream media, and have it be accepted as fact, unchallenged.

If our intelligence chairs have the will to publicly stand up to the neocons, the savvy not to get manipulated themselves, and the agility to debunk shaky intel quickly -- before it warps our understanding of the world around us -- then we can avoid being steamrolled again.

But if the chairs offer only timid voices, and allow the media to get manipulated again, then don't be surprised if the neocons succeed in expanding the war in the Arab/Muslim world, despite the huge disapproval of the Iraq War.

Fortunately, it appears that Pelosi is thinking along these lines.

The W. Post reports that she has decided not to reappoint Rep. Jane Harman.

And the NY Times reports that Pelosi's concern was that did not use "her position to attack the administration more directly on issues like the faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq and the domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency."

Also, Pelosi announced she would not appoint Rep. Alcee Hastings.

Hastings may well have been willing to stand up to the neocons.

But fairly or unfairly, the cloud over him from his past impeachment and removal from the federal judiciary would make it harder for him to effectively challenge suspect intel.

Now, reports are that Pelosi is considering Rep. Silvestre Reyes and Rep. Sanford Bishop. (Rep. Norm Dicks is also being mentioned, but the NYT indicates that he doesn't want it.)

Gauging, from the outside, who has the right character is near impossible.

There are potential red flags with both of them.

For example, Bishop voted for the torture bill and backed the Iraq War, which of course was based on manipulated and over-hyped intelligence (though he has been more critical as of late.)

And the Black Commentator harshly said of Bishop and three others:

These men are the worst malefactors in the [Congressional Black Caucus] on issues of war and peace, as well as social and economic justice. They ... prevent the Black Caucus from carrying out its historic mission.

Regarding Reyes, both Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein have positive impressions. He at least didn't fall for the Iraq War.

But investigative reporter Laura Rozen raises that Reyes may have met with "infamous Iran Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, against the advice of the [CIA], and without informing the U.S. ambassador in Paris, as is proper protocol." (Rozen also notes that Reyes' office denies it.)

But none of that can definitely tell us if they are willing and able to resist manipulation and stifle misinformation.

For example, it's possible that a conservative-leaning congressperson like Bishop may feel burned by his earlier war vote, and now is recommitted to demanding truth in intelligence.

(Let us not forget that Jack Murtha is a conservative-leaning Dem who became an eloquent war critic.)

And we can't be completely sure if there was a suspicious meeting with Reyes, and what actually transpired at such a meeting.

This may be a situation where we have to put some trust in Pelosi.

That she can size up the character of the prospective candidates, and install someone that will do what's necessary to protect us from manipulation.

Obviously, the grassroots will continue to have a strong role to play in fighting misinformation.

But it'll be a lot easier with a strong ally as intelligence chair.

We'll only know if we have one after seeing that person in action.

Posted by Bill Scher on Nov 29, 2006 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Foreign Policy
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