Image: U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann
Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., stands with Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the floor of the House on Wednesday, shortly before the latter was elected speaker.
By Michael Isikoff National investigative correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/6/2011 11:04:18 AM ET 2011-01-06T16:04:18

The country has a new guardian for its national security secrets: Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The outspoken Minnesota Republican and Tea Party favorite has been tapped by House Speaker John Boehner for a coveted slot on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, giving her a new role as overseer of the CIA, the National Security Agency and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community.

The move  comes as Bachmann is seeking to burnish her national security credentials as she weighs a possible run for higher office.

Her spokesman, Doug Sachtleben, confirmed this week that she is planning to speak at an Iowans for Tax Relief fundraiser in Waterloo, Iowa, later this month, a move that has fueled speculation that she may be planning to carry the Tea Party banner into the GOP presidential primaries. "She's not taking anything off the table as far as her political future," he said.

Sachtleben said there was "no connection" between Bachmann's possible future plans and her recent request to Boehner to serve on the intelligence committee. Bachmann, who until now has not served on any committee that deals with  foreign policy issues, wanted to serve on the intelligence committee because "she was concerned as a mother" about the threat of terrorism and other national security issues, he said. He did, acknowledge, however that the new position will be "helpful" in giving her "further credentials in the international area."

The selection of Bachmann to serve on the intelligence committee has already created a buzz among  her House colleagues, especially among Democrats who noted her penchant for provocative and sometimes unsubstantiated statements on a range of issues.

Bachmann, for example, was one of a number of conservatives who fueled false claims that President Barack Obama's trip to India after the election was costing taxpayers $200 million a day. (When challenged, Bachmann told the BBC she was only "quoting a newspaper out of India.")

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In a 2007 interview, Bachmann told a St. Cloud, Minn., newspaper that she had learned of a secret plan by Iran to partition Iraq and turn a part of it into a "terrorist free safe haven zone" and asked why the news media wasn't reporting it.

The Iranians "have already decided to partition Iraq. And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called, um, the Iraq State of Islam something like that,” she was quoted as saying. “And I'm sorry, I don’t have the official name, but it’s meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There's already an agreement made. … Has anyone else out here heard of the new Iraq State of Islam? Can anyone shed some light on this new development? How can this have gone unreported?" 

It is unclear where Bachmann got her information, but no evidence has ever surfaced to support her assertion.

One House Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the real issue about Bachmann is "will she able to keep quiet" about everything she gets briefed on in the  committee, almost all of which will be classified information.

Sachtleben, Bachmann's spokesman, said the congresswoman has already discussed this with her staff and "she understands the terms."

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Video: Will Bachmann be on 2012 GOP ticket?

  1. Closed captioning of: Will Bachmann be on 2012 GOP ticket?

    >> michele bachmann from minnesota is the founder of the congressional tea a party caucus . good morning to you.

    >> good morning, meredith.

    >> congresswoman bachmann, i know that the first big order of business for the house will be the repeal of the health care law . that is something that you have been a major advocate for, but given the fact that the democratic-led senate will never go for that and the president has veto power , why make that the first big thing on your plate?

    >> well, because that's an issue that people really reacted against. they are very upset that very few members even bothered to read the health care bill. most of us didn't even have a chance to read it because it was put in front of us at such a late date and then, we found out that the bill is costing far more than what we were told it was going to. and it is now working to increase people's health care premiums, their private premiums, at astounding rates all across the country. in other words, it's not delivering by cost cutting the way with we were told --

    >> but if you have no chance to really repeal it, why go through this exercise?

    >> because it is not symbolic it is real. we really do want to repeal t and just like we intend next week to have a full-scale repeal of he obamacare in the house, yesterday we saw essentially the american people made a decision to repeal nancy pelosi as speaker of the house and that's why, looking forward , 2012 , unless president obama is listening to the voice of the people and harry reid listening to the fact that people want the government takeover of health care repealed, i think we will also see a rollback and repeal president obama in 2012 as well.

    >> another issue is raising the debt ceiling, the amount of money that the government is allowed to bore he row. you are opposed to raising the debt ceiling. a lot of people think if we don't raise it, it would be catastroph catastrophic. the president's chief economist, austan goolsbee , says a failure to raise the ceiling would mean "a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008 " and even a spore of yours, conservative pundit, william crystal, has take than on, saying this is irresponsible. given their positions, would you change your mind? are you willing to see the shutdown of the government?

    >> no, i don't think it is good to see the shutdown of government. i don't think that is good for anyone, meredith n last ten years we raised the debt ceiling ten times. it is becoming very serious. i brought one chart with me, i don't know if you can see it, but this had is the debt over the years of the bush administration . this is during the last two years of president obama this is how markedly different the spending levels have become and it is really why you --

    >> but some of that happened during an economic crisis , obviously, talking about stimulus money, the difference of what was happening in both periods. what i'm asking --

    >> this year you have the 911 disaster and you have the two wars, so the point is, we have been overspending and that has to stop. and that's what people asked us to do in this last election, stop the spending, because we can't continue to raise the debt level.

    >> let's talk about the spending. you say your staff has earmarked $450 billion worth of areas where you could cut spending. now, we know that a lot of the spending involves medicare , medicaid , defense and social security , so, those areas where you would have cuts?

    >> well, we have identified broad number of cuts. we have gone through the entire budget and every part of the budget, we are looking at reducing spending in each area.

    >> so social security , medicare , medicaid and defense are all areas where you would make cuts?

    >> well, the areas that we have identified, 450 billion, are not in those particular areas. the areas that we have identified, again, under president obama , we saw an increase in spending of almost 25% on nondiscretionary funds and we saw an increase in hiring of another 10% of federal employees. that's just crazy. you can't do that when the economy's contracting, so we have to cut back. and the fact is we can't. and we are no.

    >> the majority of spending again is with social security , medicare , medicaid and defense, don't you have to make cuts there?

    >> i think we have to lock at all of these areas, but the cuts we have identified out of my office don't focus on those areas, all --

    >> all right, let's --

    >> although defense is included.

    >> defense is included?

    >> yep.

    >> all right. let's talk about the buzz that's surrounding nut past 24 hours and it really was generated by your chief of staff, andy parish, when he said that you have not ruled out a presidential run. we know that you're headed to iowa later on this month to give the keynote address at a political fund-raising event. it will be the third time that you've been there in less than a year. i know you come from iowa , that is where you were born but it is also the site of the first presidential caucuses in 2012 . so how seriously are you considering a run for president?

    >> well, i'm very serious about going to iowa and going to various states and having this discussion about how we can become better again as a country because right now, we have 9.8% unemployment and, quite frankly, we can't -- we can't continue to tolerate gas going up to $5 a gallon.

    >> but how serious are you about a run for the presidency in 2012 ?

    >> what i'm serious about is focus october issues. i think it's a mistake. i'm not concerned about my own personal ambition. what i'm concerned about are the principles going forward. because right now, too many people in the media are concerned about who will be the nominee in 2012 and that's the wrong question.

    >> it wasn't a member of the media, congresswoman -- hold on for a second it wasn't a member of the media that brought this up, it was your chief of staff who said you had not ruled this out.

    >> well, actually what we did is just announce that i will be speaking in iowa and if you speak in iowa today, most people think that you are running for president. and so the context of the remarks are i am going to iowa because i'm speaking about the issues that i believe will be important for 2012 . that's why i'm going to iowa .

    >> all right. congresswoman michele bachmann , i appreciate your time. thank you very much.

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