View Full Version : Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC

Magda Hassan
04-21-2009, 03:21 AM
Sources: Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC

By Jeff Stein, CQ SpyTalk Columnist (http://static.cqpolitics.com/harman-3098436-page1.html#)

Rep. Jane Harman (http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=profile-000000000590) , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, 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.
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.
(Join Jeff Stein for live Q&A (http://innovation.cq.com/liveonline/54/landing) about his column at 3:30 p.m., or submit a question (http://innovation.cq.com/liveonline/54/new) for Jeff.)
In exchange for Harman's help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi (http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=profile-000000000035) , 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."
Harman declined to discuss the wiretap allegations, instead issuing an angry denial through a spokesman.
"These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact," Harman said in a prepared statement. "I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves."
It's true that allegations of pro-Israel lobbyists trying to help Harman get the chairmanship of the intelligence panel by lobbying and raising money for Pelosi aren't new.
They were widely reported in 2006, along with allegations that the FBI launched an investigation of Harman that was eventually dropped for a "lack of evidence."
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.
As for there being "no evidence" to support the FBI probe, a source with first-hand knowledge of the wiretaps called that "bull****."
"I read those transcripts," said the source, who like other former national security officials familiar with the transcript discussed it only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of domestic NSA eavesdropping.

"It's true," added another former national security official who was briefed on the NSA intercepts involving Harman. "She was on there."
Such accounts go a long way toward explaining not only why Harman was denied the gavel of the House Intelligence Committee, but failed to land a top job at the CIA or Homeland Security Department in the Obama administration.
Gonzales said through a spokesman that he would have no comment on the allegations in this story.
The identity of the "suspected Israeli agent" could not be determined with certainty, and officials were extremely skittish about going beyond Harman's involvement to discuss other aspects of the NSA eavesdropping operation against Israeli targets, which remain highly classified.
But according to the former officials familiar with the transcripts, the alleged Israeli agent asked Harman if she could use any influence she had with Gonzales, who became attorney general in 2005, to get the charges against the AIPAC officials reduced to lesser felonies.
Rosen had been charged with two counts of conspiring to communicate, and commnicating national defense information to people not entitled to receive it. Weissman was charged with conspiracy.
AIPAC dismissed the two in May 2005, about five months before the events here unfolded.
Harman responded that Gonzales would be a difficult task, because he "just follows White House orders," but that she might be able to influence lesser officials, according to an official who read the transcript.
Justice Department attorneys in the intelligence and public corruption units who read the transcripts decided that Harman had committed a "completed crime," a legal term meaning that there was evidence that she had attempted to complete it, three former officials said.
And they were prepared to open a case on her, which would include electronic surveillance approved by the so-called FISA Court, the secret panel established by the 1979 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to hear government wiretap requests.
First, however, they needed the certification of top intelligence officials that Harman's wiretapped conversations justified a national security investigation.
Then-CIA Director Porter J. Goss reviewed the Harman transcript and signed off on the Justice Department's FISA application. He also decided that, under a protocol involving the separation of powers, it was time to notify then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Pelosi, of the FBI's impending national security investigation of a member of Congress ó to wit, Harman.
Goss, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, deemed the matter particularly urgent because of Harman's rank as the panel's top Democrat.

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.
Many people want to keep it that way.
Goss declined an interview request, and the CIA did not respond to a request to interview former Director Michael V. Hayden (http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=profile-000000017563) , who was informed of the Harman transcripts but chose to take no action, two knowledgeable former officials alleged.
Likewise, the first director of national intelligence, former ambassador John D. Negroponte, was opposed to an FBI investigation of Harman, according to officials familiar with his thinking, and let the matter die. (Negroponte was traveling last week and did not respond to questions relayed to him through an assistant.)
Harman dodged a bullet, say disgusted former officials who have pursued the AIPAC case for years. She was protected by an administration desperate for help.
"It's the deepest kind of corruption," said a recently retired longtime national security official who was closely involved in AIPAC investigation, "which was years in the making.
"It's a story about the corruption of government ó not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption."

Ironically, however, nothing much was gained by it.
The Justice Department did not back away from charging AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman for trafficking in classified information.
Gonzales was engulfed by the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal.
And Jane Harman (http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=profile-000000000590) was relegated to chairing a House Homeland Security subcommittee.
Jeff Stein can be reached at jstein@cq.com.

Magda Hassan
04-25-2009, 02:21 AM
Why Did The Harman Case Break Now?

By Philip Weiss

April 24, 2009 "Information Clearing House (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/)" -- The Jane Harman case is confusing to newcomers. The most important question that arises is why now? Why four years after the phone call? It is the most important question because it speaks to the fact that the central fight here, between the Israel lobby and the critics of the Israel lobby, is a fight that has been going on for more than 60 years in the underground of the Washington establishment. It never dies because it involves principled conflicts that are never resolved. They are never resolved because the press and our politicians canít deal with these questions due to Harman-style orthodoxy/corruption, and the battle is suppressed. Though now and then it breaks the surface.

The specific reason the story is coming out now is that my side, the critics of the Israel lobby, are about to lose a battle: it looks like the case against Steven Rosen and Ken Weissman, the Israel lobbyists charged with sharing secrets with the Israelis five years ago, a case postponed forever, is going to get dropped by the Justice Department. The lawyers who believe in that case are surely upset about this and have managed to leak one of the big truffles of their investigation to the press so as to goose the public outrage over the central issue at stake: corruption of policymaking due to the Israel interest. I donít know that theyíre the source. But thatís my supposition.

We may lose this fight, but we are winning the larger battle. Remember that We lost the Chas Freeman fight, the nomination of an Arabist/realist to the National Intelligence Council, but we won that one too because he freely exposed the Israel-first gang that had gone after him. Suddenly the Israel lobby was on the front pages. Itís on them again, a month later, with the Times coverage of Harman. This is unprecedented. At last the Israel lobby, which people denied as a fact of our political life when Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer had the Emperorís-new-clothes temerity to say it existed three years ago, is being openly mentioned. Andrea Mitchell said frankly on MSNBC the other day that it is a well-known and powerful lobby.

We are winning in this overall struggle because the central question, the justice of U.S. foreign policy to the Palestinians, has never been discussed and is never going away. It demands to be discussed. The Forward has a smart but slightly panicky piece today saying that the Harman case reflects a longheld belief in the federal government, among the professionals, that Jews have dual loyalty to Israel, going back almost to the foundation of the state. This is true. At least since the Truman overruled his State Department when it wanted to try and reverse partition in the spring of 1948, because bloody riots and ethnic cleansing had begun in Palestine, which partition was supposed to end, the lobby has won through White House access of the sort Harman allegedly boasted of in the wiretapped call; and those who are critical of a Jewish state or its policies have been excluded and smeared, as antisemites. The Forward piece carried that implication tday. The issue has never gone away and many presidents have bitched about it. Kennedy was upset abut Jewish influence-peddling on the matter even as Israel was acquiring nuclear weapons in defiance of his policy (Sy Hersh reported in the Samson Option). Nixon bridled at the lobbying. Jimmy Carter threw himself against the Israel lobby and didnít get reelected. George Bush I also took on the Israel lobby, the evil settlements policy that has now all but destroyed the two-state solution, and didnít get a second term. Bill Clinton and George Bush II embraced the expansion and the lobby, and had two terms. Chuck Percy and Paul Findlay sacrificed their political futures over trying to get the issue discussed.

The tragedy of our politics is that Barack Obama ran last year in some large measure against the neoconservative policy on the Middle East and the issue was never openly debated. Obama toed the line--and secretly believed that Palestinians are suffering the most. The neocons wanted to have that fight, and so did I. We both thought we would win if we could have it out; or they thought that McCain had a better chance of winning. But that question was ruled out of the presidential campaign, a time when people would get a chance to choose over the issue--just as Al Franken and Norm Coleman refused to differ on the question in the midst of their battle--and now the unresolved struggle has been imported into the Obama administraiotn. He knows that resolving the issue is essential to the American interest in the Middle East, and to peace. Itís the core issues, As King Abdullah and every other leader has told him. But because we could not have it out last year, a silent struggle is now taking place inside his administration, as Bruce wolman has put it, between the realists and the Israel-firsters. Obama can throw a signal to one side and the other, but he canít take a firm stand against the Israel firsters without political cover. A few critical congressmen, Brian Baird and Kucinich and Donna Edwards, arenít going to give him that political cover. He needs his progressive base to take a stand on the question and openly, and allow the influential elites to divide on the issue on talk shows and at dinner parties. He canít drive the wedge without a sledgehammer-- public opinion, the press.

I'm optimistic because the Harman case came up three years ago, in Time Magazine, and died, and now it has come up again and gotten legs. It could not have become such a big story without political ground, created by the horrors of Gaza, and the Netanyahu/Lieberman election, and before that by the horrors of Iraq. Americans know that our Middle East policy is skewed toward permanent war, one that Rahm Emanuel and Jane Hamran supported. Progressive Democrats are beginning to rally around the issue at last.

What the Harman leak suggests is that the establishment press and the disgruntled Israel critics within government have found each other at last. The story took 4 years, or 60 years to get out, but it is out, and there is a suggestion in the coverage that the intelligence of the American political process may at last be brought to bear on this questionóinstead of the intelligence of the back room dealers. When that happens, expect fairness.

Peter Lemkin
04-29-2009, 06:58 PM
Harman-AIPAC Scandal -
A Lot More To It
By Joel Skousen
World Affairs Brief

There is a lot more to the ongoing story about the NSA wiretapping the phones of Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harmon that I don't have time to cover--It is spooky stuff and we may never know all the secret motives involved. At it's core is the charge that Harmon was caught on tape speaking to a thus far unidentified Israeli agent dubbed "Bob," agreeing to try and influence then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others to quash the FBI probe into the espionage between a US intel official and the controversial Israeli lobby AIPAC. Gonzales himself agreed to quash any probe of Harmon for attempts to obstruct justice on behalf of AIPAC. Harmon was a key Democrat who supported President Bush's illegal surveillance of all communications. According to Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein, who first broke the Harman-AIPAC story, "intelligence officials, angry about Gonzo's move, told Nancy Pelosi about the wiretap that had picked up Harman talking to a suspected Israeli agent -- defying the AG's order that Pelosi not be informed. That was how Pelosi learned about the wiretap -- not through an official briefing, as she implied yesterday in comments to reporters.

Zachary Roth of Talking Points Memo continues the narrative: "It's unclear how informing Pelosi -- then the House minority leader -- would have served the interests of the intel officials who wanted to investigate Harman. Perhaps they felt that, if they couldn't continue the probe, they could at least make sure Harman paid a political price. They may have been successful in that regard. Pelosi didn't appoint Harman to the job she was seeking -- House Intelligence chair -- and there have been suggestions that this was in part because Pelosi knew about the wiretap issue."

As for Gonzales' role in protecting Harman, there may have been a little quid pro quo according to Scott Horton: "Gonzales appears to have personally intervened to shut down an FBI probe into Harman's potential wrongdoing--which was reportedly recorded on several wiretapped phone calls--because he viewed her as a key Democratic ally in Congress who could help him fend off accusations about warrantless domestic wiretapping."

However, as Glen Greenwald put it, "Harman is getting a taste of her own medicine. When the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was 'both legal and necessary' as well as 'essential to U.S. national security,' (according to Harmon)... But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman's overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist."

On an even deeper level, virtually every Congressman of any import is surveiled by the dark side of government. They use the dirt they find on politicians to control them. When a tap like this becomes visible, there is either someone in power out to get Harman, or she did something wrong, or failed to do something demanded of her, and is getting a little warning from the PTB. It gets more murky when you consider that it was Porter Goss, the establishment fixer sent in with his minions to root out the remaining whistleblowers at the CIA, who initiated this attack on Harmon.

As John Kampeas wrote, "Goss had reason to resent Harman: As ranking member on the committee, she aggressively pursued her own investigation of the case that felled U.S. Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.) in a cash for contracts scandal - one that also brought down Goss buddy ("Gossling") Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, Goss' number 3 at the CIA. And they weren't exactly best buds before that; Goss and Harman had clashed, for instance, on waterboarding; she went over his head and formally registered her opposition to the torture practice with the CIA." --Lots of motives are possible. This gives you some idea of how convoluted and hidden things are in Washington. There is a dark side of government out there that the public has no idea about--and it's been around for decades.

World Affairs Brief Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World.

Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen's World Affairs Brief