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  Hastings says he's fit to lead intelligence panel
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Last EditedNone Entered  Nov 25, 2006 09:21pm
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MediaNewspaper - Los Angeles Times
News DateSunday, November 26, 2006 03:20:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionBy Greg Miller, Times Staff Writer
November 23, 2006

WASHINGTON — Competition for the post of chairman of the House Intelligence Committee intensified Wednesday with the release of a letter by Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), who says he deserves the job despite the fact that as a federal judge he was convicted by the Senate and removed from the bench after being impeached for involvement in a bribery plot.

In a rambling letter sent to Democratic members of the House, Hastings lashed out at his critics, saying they were bent on "denying me a position I have certainly earned and am completely competent to perform."

Hastings is, by seniority, the second-ranking Democrat on the committee, after Rep. Jane Harman of Venice. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, the House's incoming speaker, has indicated that when the Democrats take control in January, she plans to take Harman off the committee in favor of someone more critical of the Bush administration's Iraq war policies.

With Harman gone, Hastings would be in line to become chairman of the panel, formally known as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. His past legal troubles, however, have raised questions about his fitness for the position, which involves safeguarding many of the nation's most closely held spy secrets.

A mix of internal politics and concern over public perceptions has made the question of whom to name as the panel's chairman one of the thorniest issues facing Pelosi. She had planned to elevate Hastings, helping her settle a debt to the Congressional Black Caucus over the removal of another black lawmaker from the panel after Harman returned to Congress — and to the intelligence committee — after a failed gubernatorial run.

More recently, there have been indications that Pelosi might bypass Hastings out of concern that his background might give ammunition to critics of the House's Democratic leadership. Next in line is Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas).

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