this is how Congress gets owned by AIPAC
Bombshell: Rep. Jane Harman Caught on Tape Agreeing to Lobby for Alleged AIPAC/Israel Spies?
By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports
Posted on April 20, 2009, Printed on April 20, 2009
This is a huge story: Representative Jane Harman, a hawkish, influential “Blue Dog” Democrat “was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington,” according to a report from CQ Politics:
Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.
In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.
Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.”
The case, known as the AIPAC espionage scandal centers around allegations that at least two AIPAC staff members passed sensitive US intelligence on Iran, provided by Pentagon official Lawrence Franklin, to Israel. In early 2006, Franklin pled guilty to espionage-related charges and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The case against two indicted AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, is ongoing.
Allegations that Harman intervened in this case in an effort to win the spot as chair of the Intelligence Committee have been widespread since 2006, but an FBI investigation into Harman was dropped for “lack of evidence.” As CQ Politics reports:
What is new is that Harman is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington.
And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for “lack of evidence,” it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush’s top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.
Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House.
When Justice Department officials reviewed the transcript of the wiretaps on Rep. Harman, its attorneys determined she had committed a “completed crime,” which, according to CQ Politics is “a legal term meaning that there was evidence that she had attempted to complete it.” The Justice Department attorneys wanted to open a case on her, but they needed the green light from top intel officials to confirm it rightly constituted a national security investigation. Porter Goss, who was then the CIA director reportedly approved the investigation and was preparing to notify then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Dennis Hastert and, through them, Harman herself:
But that’s when, according to knowledgeable officials, Attorney General Gonzales intervened.
According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he “needed Jane” to help support the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times.
Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program
He was right.
On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.”
Pelosi and Hastert never did get the briefing.
And thanks to grateful Bush administration officials, the investigation of Harman was effectively dead.
On his Salon blog today Glenn Greenwald points out:
Jane Harman, in the wake of the NSA scandal, became probably the most crucial defender of the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program, using her status as “the ranking Democratic on the House intelligence committee” to repeatedly praise the NSA program as “essential to U.S. national security” and “both necessary and legal.” She even went on Meet the Press to defend the program along with GOP Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Pete Hoekstra, and she even strongly suggested that the whistleblowers who exposed the lawbreaking and perhaps even the New York Times (but not Bush officials) should be criminally investigated, saying she “deplored the leak,” that “it is tragic that a lot of our capability is now across the pages of the newspapers,” and that the whistleblowers were “despicable.” And Eric Lichtblau himself described how Harman, in 2004, attempted very aggressively to convince him not to write about the NSA program.
There may be some who attempt to portray Harman as a victim of blackmail by Gonzales (and the wiretapping of members of Congress—and other Americans— should be thoroughly investigated) but Harman is a right wing Democrat who was often in sync with the heinous policies of the Bush administration. Over at TalkingPointsMemo, Josh Marshall raises some interesting issues on this story, particularly relating to the wiretap itself:
Among the many questions the story raises are some that Harman should probably answer, but not all. High on my list would be finding out more about the circumstances under which a member of Congress ended up having her phone conversations recorded by the NSA. The article suggests it was a by-the-books wiretap — part of a highly-classified probe of Israeli agents in the US, which led to the indictments of two AIPAC employees — and not one of the ‘warrantless’ ones. But we’ve seen so much funny business on that front that I’m not sure that’s enough information.
In a prepared statement, Harman said: “These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact… I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves.”
Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.