Michele Bachmann still has access to our nation’s top secrets

After getting mocked by her own party for her Muslim witch hunt, she retains her seat on the Intelligence Committee

Topics: Michele Bachmann, National security, U.S. Intelligence, CIA, U.S. House of Representatives,

Michele Bachmann still has access to our nation's top secrets (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Here are just a few of the people who have publicly condemned Rep. Michele Bachmann’s work on the House Intelligence Committee in the past year — from her own party: The GOP’s most prominent voice on foreign policy, the speaker of the House, the party’s leading 2016 presidential candidate, and the chairman of that very committee.

Then there was the epic eye roll that White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennnan, who was recently tapped to lead the CIA, delivered when asked about Bachmann. “I’m not even going to try to divine what it is that sometimes comes out of Congress,” he said with a laugh.

The rebukes followed Bachmann’s neo-McCarthyite witch hunt against Muslims in the federal government, for she feared “deep penetration” by Muslim Brotherhood agents. One suspect included Huma Abedin, a top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who it turned out was not a terrorists and happened to be beloved by members of both parties.

While the witch hunt was surprising, the fact that Bachmann would use her perch on the Intelligence Committee to do something stupid was entirely predictable. This is Michele Bachmann, after all, who sees conspiracy theories everywhere and for whom the word “intelligence” is rarely used in the same sentence without the addition of a negative qualifier.

And yet, Bachmann has now officially been reappointed to her seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. On Friday, House Republicans released their list of committee members for the nascent 113th Congress, and Bachmann’s name is on it. The post gives her access to classified information and the power to oversee the country’s intelligence agencies, including the use of drones and efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.



And if that’s not enough, two of her co-conspirators, Reps. Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Rooney, will retain their seats on the committee as well. Westmoreland and Rooney, along with Reps. Louie Gohmert and Trent Franks, signed on to Bachmann’s letters to the inspectors general of five national security agencies demanding investigations into alleged Muslim Brotherhood penetration.

(Incidentally, security breaches are not really the domain of inspectors general, who deal more with budgetary and administrative impropriety. Counter-intelligence agents would be the more appropriate choice if Bachmann were actually concerned about infiltration and not using the campaign to boost her fundraising and reelection bid.)

That means that most of Bachmann’s anti-Muslim cabal remains on the Intelligence Committee, representing a quarter of the 12 GOP members of the group. The only new member, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, replaces Rep. Sue Myrick, who had one of the most notoriously anti-Muslim records in Congress before resigning last year. Pompeo may not be much better.

Why is Bachmann getting another round on a committee she probably has no business being on? We can’t know for sure, but probably because immediate domestic political concern trumps foreign policy competence every time, especially if you’re John Boehner.

In July, the National Review’s Robert Costa reported that “many senior House GOP aides were wary of elevating” Bachmann to the Intel Committee at the time of her appointment, but “Boehner assured them that it was an appropriate gesture.” After losing her presidential race, the seat was “a political lifeline” for Bachmann and it was all thanks to Boehner, Costa explained.

The uproar over the Abedin affair threatened to undo all of that, but apparently was not enough. Either Boehner is scared of taking on Bachmann and her vast grass-roots network of admirers, or he’d rather appease her and tap into that political power. Either way, he’s choosing to keep her in a position of power over national security, despite calling her views “dangerous” only a few months ago.

And it’s all the more surprising considering that Boehner had no problem culling a number of other high-profile Tea Party members from plum committee posts last month, in what became known as the “Tea Party purge.”

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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