Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Incoming House intelligence chief botches easy intel quiz


Incoming House intelligence chief botches easy intel quiz
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."

That is wrong. Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.

Reyes could also not answer questions put by Stein about Hezbollah, a Shiite group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that is based in Southern Lebanon.

Stein's column about Reyes' answers was published on CQ's Web site Friday evening.

In an interview with CNN, Stein said he was "amazed" by Reyes' lack of what he considers basic information about two of the major terrorists organizations.

"If you're the baseball commissioner and you don't know the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, you don't know baseball," Stein said. "You're not going to have the respect of the people you work with."

While Stein said Reyes is "not a stupid guy," his lack of knowledge said it could hamper Reyes' ability to provide effective oversight of the intelligence community, Stein believes.

"If you don't have the basics, how do you effectively question the administration?" he asked. "You don't know who is on first."

Stein said Reyes is not the only member of the House Intelligence Committee that he has interviewed that lacked what he considered basic knowledge about terrorist organizations.

"It kind of disgusts you, because these guys are supposed to be tending your knitting," Stein said. "Most people are rightfully appalled."

Pelosi picked Reyes over fellow Californian Rep. Jane Harman, who had been the Intelligence Committee's ranking member, and Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, who had been impeached as a federal judge after being accused of taking a bribe.

Full story from CQ


Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the Texas Democrat tapped to head the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that despite failing to answer basic questions about al Qaeda's makeup, he is aware of the threat the terrorist group poses.

"The CQ interview covered a wide range of topics other than the selected points published in the story," Reyes said in a statement to CNN. "As a Member of the Intelligence Committee since before 9/11, I'm acutely aware of al Qaeda'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."

Reyes drew heat after failing to answer questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah posed by the Congressional Quarterly

--CNN's Scott Anderson and Brian Todd

Bonus Article

Bonus excerpt:

According to Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat, the President that began the war was unaware there were multiple sects of Islam in the first place.

"A year after his 'Axis of Evil' speech before the U.S. Congress, President Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, one of whom became postwar Iraq’s first representative to the United States. The three described what they thought would be the political situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. During their conversation with the President, Galbraith claims, it became apparent to them that Bush was unfamiliar with the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites.

Galbraith reports that the three of them spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam--to which the President allegedly responded, 'I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!'”

It doesn't matter what party affiliation is in charge - to be so entirely ignorant of the situation in which we've put our troops is absolutely unacceptable at any level. But for Hume to report that a Democrat is so ill informed, without mentioning the person that started the war in the first place was even more uninformed, in what is supposed to be a "fair and balanced" report is intellectually dishonest.

SS sez-

I'll bet you five bucks that just about nobody in congress or in the White House could have answered that quiz properly before invading Iraq...probably very few, not including the Prez., can answer it right at present. How else can one percieve this except as incredibly irresponsible, short sighted and flat out ...not very smart?
The invasion of Iraq has set off a chain reaction that may well wipe out most of what we now take for granted. It did not have to be this way.

I read the ISG report in its entirety on Sunday. The things they lay out in there are the things we should have been doing for decades...let alone before invading Iraq.

With no-one willing to negotiate, the extremism in Islam, the flawed policies of the U.S. and the exceptionalism of Israel- a nuclear conflagration is becoming far more likely.

Its time to start shopping for a fallout protection suit.

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