Congressional Quarterly: Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC
Congressional Quarterly is reporting Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California was overheard in 2005 on an NSA wiretap speaking with a suspected Israeli agent. During the call Harman reportedly said she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. In exchange for Harman’s help, the suspected Israeli agent reportedly pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections. The conversation is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA wiretap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington. Congressional Quarterly reports then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales decided to stop a probe of Harman because he wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s secret domestic spy program that the New York Times was about to expose.
Sources: Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC
Rep. Jane Harman , 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 to 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.
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.( Collapse )
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 , 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 — not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption.”
Ironically, however, nothing much was gained by it.
The Justice Department did not back away from charging Rosen and fellow AIPAC official Keith Weissman with espionage (for allegedly giving classified Pentagon documents to Israeli officials).
Gonzales was engulfed by the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal.
And Jane Harman was relegated to chairing a House Homeland Security subcommittee.
Jeff Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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