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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida's Spy Master



Let's hope he doesn't fall into enemy hands: While on a fact-finding trip to the Middle East this week, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was tapped today to join the Intelligence Committee, adding to his resume of cloak-and-dagger work in Congress.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Nelson would replace senior Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat who'll be more than busy in his new job as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Levin will remain an ex-officio member.

Nelson left for the region Saturday. On Wednesday he's scheduled to meet with Syrian President Basher al-Assad, the first U.S. official to meet with him since the Iraq Study Group recommended more dialogue with Syria and Iran, his office said. Then he goes to Lebanon.

The trip "was set before we knew what this Iraq Study Commission was going to say, but I felt the same thing” about ways to achieve stability in Iraq," Nelson told the Associated Press.

The intelligence committees of both chambers of Congress have enjoyed new cache since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Their importance has only grown since lawmakers - including Nelson - learned that the intelligence data that led the United States to invade Iraq was, um, exaggerated.

Nelson, who won reelection last month, was well-placed for a spot on the committee. He already serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, and he's also a member of two intelligence-related subcommittees of the Armed Services Committee: The Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee and the Strategic Forces subcommittee, which he is expected to lead when the Democrats officially take control of Congress next month.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:42am]


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