Wednesday, April 05, 2006 | Congressman Darrell Issa’s (R-Vista) recent appointment by Speaker Dennis Hastert to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has tremendous implications for the San Diego region. He will be in a key position to have a direct impact on the war on terrorism. This adds to his portfolio as he also sits on the Government Reform, International Relations and Judiciary committees.

Although disgraced former Congressman Randy Cunningham sat on the same committee, it would be a mistake to assume that this is simply one San Diego-area representative replacing another.

Issa will take a proactive, direct approach. Even though both share a military background, Issa started off as an enlisted man and he earned an officer’s commission through hard work and diligence. While Cunningham sold his influence and arguably put American lives in danger, Issa clearly has two goals he will consider before making any votes: the safety of the American people and the safety of our American troops.

Speaker Hastert specifically mentioned Issa’s military background in announcing the appointment. That, coupled with his district being in a border county, will make him a go-to guy among his fellow committee members.

One of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives, the Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction essentially is oversight of every intelligence-gathering agency and the intelligence community. Issa played a strategic role with the House Judiciary Committee on the Patriot Act. As the Select Committee on Intelligence considers the necessity of intelligence gathering proposals, Issa will bring experience in balancing the need to procure important intelligence about foreign terrorist operations without unnecessarily infringing on civil liberties.

As a leader for many years in the technology sector, he understands and appreciates how investment in innovative approaches can mean the difference between success and failure. Let’s not forget that Issa is considered a “techie.” The innovative patents he secured while in business will give him a unique perspective as the technical aspect of intelligence gathering is discussed. Not one to be shy, Issa will be aggressive in analyzing information given at briefings from the intelligence community.

Because of his background and extensive work with the House International Relations Committee, he almost certainly and immediately will play a major role on the Intelligence Committee. Being of Lebanese descent, he has made several trips throughout the globe and the Middle East. Well regarded in Washington as an expert on Middle East affairs, he is often consulted by colleagues of both parties for his unique insight and analysis. Personally gregarious, his interpersonal skills have allowed him direct communication with members on the other side of the aisle without being seen as a rigid ideologue.

A strong supporter of the Bush administration, he is considered a team player in the House, clearly an asset that has enabled him to secure these plum assignments. Issa’s Southern California perspective on issues including protecting our border and securing sensitive sites in western states will be an insight his colleagues will rely upon. His past prickly relationship and history with the Border Patrol may make for some interesting discussions.

Another striking difference from his predecessor is the fact the Cunningham never truly seemed that interested in international affairs. Issa, through his extensive travels, has an understanding of the various cultures, both friend and foe, that will need to be taken into consideration when debating any issues on the war on terrorism.

As an aside, Issa is also extending his influence by helping his colleagues in the fundraising department. A prodigious fundraiser, his ties to the business community have proven fruitful. Additionally, he is currently working hard to help former colleague Brian Bilbray return to the House. A chit here and a chit there, and Issa’s star continues to rise.

With Issa taking over the seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, simply put, Cunningham’s loss is San Diego’s gain.

John M. Dadian is president of Dadian & Associates, Inc. a lobbying firm based in San Diego and a political analyst of San Diego, state and national politics.

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