- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Two weeks ago, when Nancy Pelosi selected Rep. Silvestre Reyes to become chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Reyes said he was “honored by the serious responsibility that has been placed on my shoulders.” Here’s hoping that the weight of that responsibility is placed on his shoulders in a way that somehow helps him remove his head from the sand. How else to explain his disgraceful lack of the most basic knowledge that presumably has inundated committee members since al Qaeda perpetrated the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people?

During the same week that Mrs. Pelosi made the error of selecting Mr. Reyes over the deeply informed Rep. Jane Harman, Congressional Quarterly national security editor Jeff Stein interviewed Mr. Reyes for 40 minutes in the incoming chairman’s office. More than half a decade after September 11 and three years and nine months into the war in Iraq, where a self-identified terrorist group, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has played a pivotal role in precipitating the escalating sectarian strife between Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs, Mr. Stein asked Mr. Reyes whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shi’ite. “Predominantly — probably Shi’ite,” Mr. Reyes guessed. He guessed wrong. “He couldn’t have been more wrong,” Mr. Stein explained in a weekend dispatch. “Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shi’ite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.”

Mr. Stein then asked Mr. Reyes about Hezbollah: Sunni or Shi’ite? Mr. Reyes laughed about his ignorance concerning this Lebanese Shi’ite group that had used a suicide bomber to kill 241 Marines and sailors in Lebanon in 1983 and that had engaged Israel in a five-week war this past summer. Mr. Reyes whined about being asked “these questions at 5 o’clock.” He wanted to answer in Spanish and laughed again. His deplorable ignorance was a big joke, to him. The man Mrs. Pelosi handpicked to be chairman of the intelligence committee observed that “it’s not like the Hatfields and McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.” This is what passes for analysis from a six-year veteran of the House Intelligence Committee. His knowledge has apparently so impressed Mrs. Pelosi that she named him to be chairman of the committee she once served on as ranking member.

The man who thinks al Qaeda is “predominantly — probably Shi’ite” issued a press release last week declaring that the Iraq Study Group’s “conclusions about the state of our intelligence capabilities in Iraq are troubling.” Everyone should be troubled by Mr. Reyes’ intelligence capabilities. The man who could not be troubled over six years to make the most minimal effort to comprehend the most basic facts about terrorism rightly insists that “[t]he work of the [intelligence] committee is critical to the security of our nation.” That makes him the wrong man for the job of chairman. That is no laughing matter. And it’s not too late to correct this error and install Mrs. Harman as chairman.

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