(by Randy Hall, CNSNews.com) – The incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee appeared to know very little about two major terrorist groups in a recent press interview — a situation that analysts have called “extremely alarming” and something that “should concern all Americans.”

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) — in a Dec. 8 interview with a Congressional Quarterly reporter — stumbled when he was asked basic questions about al Qaeda and the Lebanese-based terror group, Hizballah.

Justin Logan, foreign policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said that Reyes’ “apparent ignorance of really fundamental and basic questions” was “extremely alarming.”

Logan told Cybercast News Service the five-term congressman’s lack of knowledge regarding such vital foreign policy issues “underscores our fumbling in the dark in the Muslim world in terms of getting our policies right.”

While acknowledging that some might consider being asked about such information during an interview to be an example of “gotcha politics,” Logan stated: “It’s a very simple question, really. I don’t think that a basic understanding of the nature of the struggle we’re in is too much to ask of policymakers in Washington.”

In the Congressional Quarterly article entitled “Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda,” journalist Jeff Stein described his exchange with Reyes, as follows:

“Al-Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shi’a?

“‘Al-Qaeda, they have both,’ Reyes said. ‘You’re talking about predominately?’

“‘Sure,’ I said, not knowing what else to say.

“‘Predominantly — probably Shiite,’ he ventured.”

Stein then noted that “al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

“It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center,” Stein wrote. “Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?”

The interview continued: “And Hizballah? I asked him. What are they?

“‘Hizballah. Uh, Hizballah … Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish?'”

“Hizballah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon,” Stein wrote. “Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shi’ites to kill Sunnis in the spiraling civil war.”

On Monday, Reyes’ office issued a statement noting that the Congressional Quarterly interview had covered a wide range of topics.

“As a member of the intelligence committee since before 9/11, I’m acutely aware of al Qaeda’s desire to harm Americans,” he said. “The intelligence committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us.”

Cybercast News Service previously reported that House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi’s first choice to head the intelligence committee was Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat who was impeached as a federal judge in 1989 due to a bribery scandal.

That fact was not lost on the conservative organization Judicial Watch, which issued a statement of its own on Tuesday entitled “Pelosi’s New Intel Head Lacks Basic Intelligence “

“From a corrupt impeached federal judge to an anti-war congressman who doesn’t know basic facts about the world’s top terrorist groups, new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s choices to head the intelligence committee should concern all Americans,” the group said.

“Pelosi needs to enroll Reyes in a crash course on Middle Eastern terrorist groups before he takes the crucial intelligence post in January,” Judicial Watch stated. “After all, members of the intelligence committee are paid well — $165,200 a year — to know more than just the basic facts about our country’s enemies.”

Nevertheless, Logan noted that ignorance on basic foreign policy issues “is probably more common than we know” on Capitol Hill.

“The guy who did the CQ piece did a piece in the New York Times in October in which he asked a lot of bureaucrats – a lot of people who are involved with counter-terrorism issues day in and day out – the same questions.”

Many of them, including GOP officials, fared poorly, he said.

But Logan noted that others’ lack of knowledge doesn’t give the incoming head of the intelligence committee a pass when it comes to basic, essential knowledge regarding foreign policy.

“It’s really inexcusable,” he added.

Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.


1. a) For how many years has Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) been a congressman?
b) For how many years has Rep. Reyes served on the House Intelligence Committee?
c) On what subcommitte of the Intelligence Committee does Rep. Reyes serve?

2.  What is the purpose of the House Intelligence Committee according to wikipedia.org? (to find the answer, go to wikipedia.org and type in House Intelligence Committee in the search box)
b) List the governmental organizations the committee oversees.

3.  What two questions did Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reporter Jeff Stein ask Rep. Reyes and what were Rep. Reyes’ responses?

4. What are the correct answers to reporter Jeff Stein’s questions?

5.  Re-read the last 5 paragraphs of the article.  Mr. Logan believes that regardless of the lack of knowledge on the part of other politicians, it is inexcusable that the congressman who will take over as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (Rep. Reyes) lacks basic knowledge of key terrorist organizations.
And the conservative organization Judicial Watch made a statement that “Members of the intelligence committee are paid well — $165,000 a year — to know more than just the basic facts about our country’s enemies.”
What do you think?


For an explanation of congressional committees go to wikipedia.org.

To find information on any House Committee, go to House.gov and choose the committee you want to read about. (NOTE: The full name of the House Intelligence Committee is the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence)

Get Free Answers

Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.