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CIA Has a Bash, Jeremy Bash

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It's not everyday that a new CIA chief of staff arrives at work having already been portrayed in a movie.

That comes later, if things go badly enough.

But Jeremy Bash is making his entrance as CIA boss Leon E. Panetta's new chief of staff with just that credit in his portfolio.

During the protracted Florida recount in 2000, Bash was on the team of Democratic Party lawyers trying to win the state for standard-bearer Al Gore. When HBO made a docudrama on the legal and political death match, Bash's character (as it were) had a brief shining moment on the small screen.

Otherwise, the Harvard Law grad, now 37, is best known for his role as chief minority counsel of the House Intelligence Committee and close aide to Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., the committee's top Democrat before the 2006 elections. His specialty? The CIA.

When Harman was passed over the chairmanship by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., it was only a matter of time before Bash moved on to bigger things.

"Jeremy's smart, loyal, honest and discrete. He's an asset for whomever he works for," said Jake Tapper, the ABC-TV White House correspondent, who authored a book on the 2000 recount, Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency.

Bash could be cantankerous with a reporter whose questions or story he didn't like, but otherwise he won plaudits for his quick call-backs and professionalism.

With the addition of Bash, Panetta would seem to be putting muscle behind his oft-stated vow during his nomination hearings to work more closely with Congress, where he himself spent eight terms as a California representative.

But now the gumshoe's on a different footing.

Back in Dec. 2006, Bash told an American Bar Association conference that, "We are conducting too little meaningful, constructive oversight" of the intelligence community."

"Constructive" is the key word there. No doubt Bash and Panetta will soon be kvetching about "unconstructive" congressional oversight.

But Bash has a wide array of friends to turn to for private counsel, including the news business. From 1998 through 2007, he was married to Dana (Schwartz) Bash, a CNN producer and congressional correspondent.

An even more valuable friend could be federal judge Leonie Brinkema, for whom Bash clerked after Harvard Law.

Sitting on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Brinkema has been deeply involved in some of the most vexing cases involving U.S. intelligence, including the prosecutions of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. When she asked about CIA videotapes showing the interrogation of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, the government denied their existence.

On Monday the CIA admitted over 90 videotapes had been destroyed.

Jeff Stein can be reached at jstein@cq.com. Go to his daily SpyTalk blog at CQ Politics.com for more on this and other national security topics