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Pelosi's Slap at Security By: Josh Manchester
New York Post | Wednesday, November 22, 2006

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi intends to install Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) as chairman of the House Intelligence Com mittee. But Hastings poses an incredible security risk.

He was removed from office as a federal judge in 1989 for taking a $150,000 bribe to render light sentences and other perks to two mobsters. And his latest disclosure forms list $2 million to $7 million in liabilities (mostly for legal fees).

Were Hastings a regular Joe applying for a security clearance of the lowest kind for a job at the CIA or FBI, he'd be rapidly and roundly denied. His history of public corruption, coupled with his precarious financial situation, makes him ripe to be targeted for espionage.

Most complaints about Hastings' possible installation hinge on the Democrats' hypocrisy - after all, they just won Congress by complaining about the GOP's "culture of corruption." Others note that Rep. Jane Harman, now the committee's top Democrat, is more qualified.

Yet the national-security issues are far more important. Those who know Hastings may protest, and loudly. But people with patterns of financial irresponsibility or corruption such as Hastings have proven to be security risks since time immemorial.

Consider the kind of information that would become immediately available to a Chairman Hastings - the most secret of top-secret information. Intelligence Committee members have access to what's called "top-secret special compartmentalized information" (TS-SCI). This stuff is so sensitive that its aspects are divided into four "compartments" so that anyone privy to one compartment will not have access to the other three. The subject matter includes cryptography, satellite intelligence, data on our intel agencies and details of our nuclear arsenal. Even if Hastings has access to only one of these areas, it would be incredibly risky.

It's hard to believe that such sensitive info could be so easily accessed by a man who once sold his office to two mobsters for $150,000. It's harder to believe that a responsible leader of either party would gladly want Hastings to take the reins of the intel committee.

This is also a slap in the face to everyone who works in our intelligence bureaucracies - earning a pittance compared to a member of Congress, and often waiting months or even years for the necessary background checks to do their jobs. It will be incredibly demoralizing to see a convicted bribe-taker get the chairmanship. One source who has waited over a year for a background check told me that it would be "hypocrisy" for Hastings to be the chair. Indeed, it's insult enough that he already sits on the committee.

There may even be a few who, for whatever reason, have been approached for information, and who now, seeing a corrupt official at the helm in Congress, will think, "Why not?"

Why not get someone else to lead the Intelligence Committee instead?

Rep. Pelosi claims to care to about these issues. She called the Plame scandal - involving the Bush administration's leak of Valerie Plame's status as a covert CIA operative - "an unprecedented and shameful event in American history" that had "damaged U.S. national security, specifically the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence-gathering." Her drive to put Hastings in charge of the Intelligence Committee suggests just the opposite: She's only interested in America's security when it suits her partisan agenda.

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Josh Manchester is a Marine veteran of the Iraq campaign. His blog is The Adventures of Chester.

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