Rep. Reyes: 1st Hispanic Intel. Chairman

The Associated Press
Saturday, December 2, 2006; 8:54 AM

WASHINGTON -- Silvestre Reyes was unable to speak English until he was 6 years old. Now the Texas congressman must master the lingo of the nation's spy agencies and the politics of the war in Iraq.

The son of West Texas cotton farmers, Reyes was held back in school along with other Mexican-American children because of limited English. Both Reyes' parents were born in the U.S. His father was a successful farmer and both parents were avid readers who instilled a love for reading in him.

"I always look back and am amused," Reyes said, recalling his school days. "I was tagged as (one day) being a chicken farmer (and) a high school counselor said I was good with my hands and could be a welder."

Instead, he became a combat soldier, a Border Patrol agent and chief and then was elected to Congress. This week, he added one more achievement: chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Reyes takes over the key post next year, becoming the first Hispanic to serve in the job.

He'll head the panel, in part, because Democrats capitalized at the ballot box on the dissatisfaction among American voters with the war in Iraq and what some believe was faulty and politically manipulated intelligence that led the nation into war.

"We're going to do the oversight with the administration about how do we proceed and what are the options. How does intelligence play into that and how will we be able to operationally support what we are trying to accomplish getting out of Iraq," Reyes said about his agenda as chairman.

Reyes voted against the Iraq war resolution and has supported setting a timetable for withdrawal. He said he voted against the war because he thought intelligence was being "cherry picked" and "manipulated" to make the case for war. He supports fighting the war on terror, but warns against relinquishing individual rights.

He has been an outspoken critic of the administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program. But he said Friday he will not pledge to bring American troops home right away.

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi chose Reyes over two more senior committee members _ Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.

A moderate Democrat, Reyes often takes a pro-defense stand. He also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and has served on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

He has cast votes against partial-birth abortion and human cloning, but also voted against Bush's tax cuts and rejects deployment of military personnel to the border.

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