Who will chair the House Intel Panel?

Nov. 14, 2006 at 9:42 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- It remains unclear who will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take control of the U.S. Congress next year.

Media reports last week said that the senior-most Democrat on the panel, Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., will not get the top spot owing to personal differences with fellow California Democrat, the Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi.

But the next most senior Democrat on the committee, Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings, was impeached and stripped of a federal judgeship in 1989 for soliciting a bribe -- despite his earlier acquittal of the same charges in a criminal case.

According to The Washington Post, in 1981 when Hastings discovered the FBI wanted to interview him, he left his hotel without checking out; headed not to the closest airport with the earliest flight, but to a nearby alternative; and engaged in a complex series of calls to his girlfriend, getting her to leave her home to call him from a payphone, then calling her back there from a third number.

"This is not the behavior of an innocent man," wrote Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who covered the impeachment.

"Well, at least he knows some tradecraft," joked one CIA veteran to United Press International, using the term of art for a spy's efforts to avoid surveillance and cover his tracks.

But Hastings, an African American who has been a member of Congress since 1992 and a member of the committee since 1999, has the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Pelosi may face opposition if she fails to appoint him.

Pelosi's spokeswoman, Jennifer Crider declined to comment on the reports, only pointing out that special rules govern the membership of that committee.

"There is no seniority on the intelligence committee," she told UPI, "The members are selected by the speaker and the minority leader at the beginning of each session."

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