Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Duck Soup/Updated

Posted by Charles II on April 21, 2009

Jeff Stein, Congressional Quarterly (via t/o):

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 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.

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.

So NSA wiretapping is ultra hushhush top secret unless it traps a powerful Democrat. Jane Harman is one of my least favorite Democrats, and the ability of AIPAC to affect American policy is worrisome, but using wiretaps in this manner is just.plain.wrong.

Added: Emptywheel notes that the wiretap was legal under the original FISA and says that Harman is not a victim. Look: if what Harman did was illegal, charge her. Do not spill the story into the newspapers.

Also: A key element of the story has been refuted. Since it’s Bill Keller doing the refuting, I’ll wait for confirmation, but this story smells wrong.

Updated, 4/22: Via FDL, we learn from Laura Rozen has also raised some doubts, suggesting that this story may be an attempt to shift the conversation from torture to Democratic complicity in Bushco misdeeds. Glenn Greenwald, noting Josh Marshall’s reporting, cautions that Harman’s guilt should not be assumed. Stein himself has no idea who the “agent” is; it could be Britney Spears for all anyone knows. And Harman has issued a strong denial.

Even if you don’t care about the law or the Constitution, ask yourself who is benefiting from the turmoil created by this story?

17 Responses to “Duck Soup/Updated”

  1. Emptywheel’s been all over this thing for the past two days — here’s her latest:

    Alberto Gonzales and Jane Harman Prove Blackmail Works
    By: emptywheel Monday April 20, 2009 11:50 am

    As I explained in the last post, CQ is reporting that NSA intercepts caught Jane Harman agreeing to help AIPAC avoid criminal charges in exchange for AIPAC’s support for her to get the House Intelligence Chair. That post suggests Harman was willing to intervene in a criminal case in hopes of getting a powerful Chairmanship of a committee.

    But the story also shows that Alberto Gonzales’ efforts to ensure support from those members of Congress who didn’t object to the illegal wiretap program worked. The story reveals that Gonzales spiked an investigation into Harman because he needed her to support the Administration as news of the warrantless wiretap program broke in 2005.

  2. Stormcrow said

    This is the only sort of thing that “driftnet” intelligence is good for.

    There is just too much data to be rationally analyzed, and it’s provenance is too badly tainted for it to be used in a court of law.

    So it’s going to be used to suppress and silence, to intimidate, and to smooth the way for political deals via blackmail.

    Because if no use at all is found for it, the efforts needed to collect it won’t even be justifiable in the eyes of the sort of criminals who dabble in this sort of thing.

    No return on investment. Even a crook can understand that logic.

  3. Stormcrow said

    Akismet is at it’s old tricks again.

  4. Charles II said

    I can’t find anything in the spam bucket, Stormcrow. Maybe a Net hiccup?

  5. jo6pac said

    Won’t be sorry to see her in Jail if true. I don’t care what party they are if they are a party to crimes against the public they go bye-bye.

  6. smkngman said

    This blog post FAILS at so many levels!

    The first failure is one of grade school level reading comprehension.
    “but using wiretaps in this manner is just.plain.wrong. ”

    NO! This is an example of PROPER use of FISA to expose those aiding a foreign agent.

    “Look: if what Harman did was illegal, charge her. Do not spill the story into the newspapers.”
    Get REAL! When the media functions properly this is EXACTLY how wrong doing by those that would rather it be swept under the “rug” are exposed!

    ” A key element of the story has been refuted. Since it’s Bill Keller doing the refuting,”

    Refuted???

    1- Would Keller admit he was influenced by Harman? not likely!
    2- Did he deny contact by Harman? NO!! He used that well worn phrase, “I don’t recall”!!! It seems to me that having a member of the Senate Intel com. call on this matter would be quite memorable.
    3- Is Keller the only person Harman might contact at the Times? OTOH, perhaps Harman created a story for Gonzales?

    In any event, your blog entry fails at every level.

  7. smkngman said

    By the way……

    As to my point #3 above………

    Via FDL……..

    “NYT Confirms Harman Pushed to Spike NSA Story Before ‘04 Election, Offered AIPAC Help”

  8. Charles II said

    Smkngman, may I recommed that you use all caps to fit with your writing style?

    You accuse me of lack of reading comprehension, but you (outrageously) trim my comment about Keller to avoid seeing my skepticism about his veracity. This kind of behavior has no place in an adult conversation.

    The wiretap may have been used to blackmail a member of Congress or to protect one who had broken the law– or, depending on exactly what the phrase “Israeli agent” means– neither of the two (Josh Marshall has suggested that the “Israeli agent” was actually an American citizen who happened to be pro-AIPAC). In any of these cases, the use of the wiretap was wrong and potentially criminal.

    Furthermore, the matter of whether being overly friendly with an ally of the United States is illegal or not goes back a long way and there have been prosecutorial abuses. The potential for abuse when the contact involves a member of Congress is especially large, since it threatens the separation of powers, one of the cornerstones of our system of government.

    As for the publication of the story, it goes without saying that if Harman had been charged, the story would have entered the papers in a normal manner. I have nothing against the newspapers for printing it even so. But government employees took the contents of wiretaps of an American citizen and divulged them. That is probably a crime. Fighting crime by committing crimes is not justice.

    While I have deep respect for Marcy, I have even deeper respect for the law and the Constitution. Perhaps something will emerge that convinces me that my take is wrong, but my analysis is that the release of this story has more to do with bureaucratic politics than with doing the right thing.

  9. the farmer said

    Stormcrow said: This is the only sort of thing that “driftnet” intelligence is good for.

    This wasn’t “driftnet” it was targeted. Harman turned up in the mix.

    Charles II – The wiretap may have been used to blackmail a member of Congress or to protect one who had broken the law– or, depending on exactly what the phrase “Israeli agent” means– neither of the two (Josh Marshall has suggested that the “Israeli agent” was actually an American citizen who happened to be pro-AIPAC). In any of these cases, the use of the wiretap was wrong and potentially criminal.

    “Israeli agent” in this case might (probably) mean Larry Franklin (the Pentagon analyist charged with espionage and eventually sentenced in 2006). The Franklin, Rosen, Weissman (AIPAC) caper which tracked back to Douglas Feith’s Pentagon office. Franklin was charged with passing classified info (national security presidential directive related to Iran) to two AIPAC personnel (Rosen and Weissman) who in turn passed the info on to the Israeli embassy.

    wiki summary of Franklin
    wiki summary of Franklin/AIPAC case

    For more background circa 2004 go read: Cloak and Swagger The Larry Franklin spy probe reveals an escalating fight over control of Iran policy. By Laura Rozen and Jason Vest, Issue Date: 11.02.04 — At: American Prospect Magazine

    *

  10. the farmer said

    “Israeli agent” in this case might (probably) mean Larry Franklin

    no wait, should have said Rosen (that would more likely be the person Harman was talking to). Trial is apparently scheduled for June.

    *

  11. Charles II said

    Well, Farmer, the prosecution looks likely to lose the case against Weissman and Rosen:

    Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were eventually charged under the World War I-era Espionage Act for sharing with journalists, colleagues and Israeli diplomats information they had received from Bush administration policymakers.

    After many delays, they are scheduled to go to trial in June in Alexandria, Va. The prosecution has had several setbacks, and the case is widely viewed as a problem child for the Justice Department.

    Senior Justice Department officials are involved in a final review of whether to go ahead with the case or have the charges dismissed, The Washington Post reported on its Web site on Tuesday.

    The prosecutors lost a significant battle over whom the defense may call as witnesses to demonstrate the information sharing. Over the strong objections of the Justice Department, the judge in the case ruled that the defense may call Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, Stephen J. Hadley, the former White House national security adviser, and several other senior Bush administration foreign policy officials.

    David H. Laufman, who was not involved in the Aipac case but served as a national security prosecutor, said the Rosen and Weissman prosecution “has presented a major dilemma for the department because of the rulings from the district court about the need to disclose more and more information to the defense.”

    If they lose this case, then it’s going to be very hard to make the case that a conversation with Rosen was improper.

    I should make it clear that that Harman may have committed a crime and that the wiretap on her may have been legal under FISA. But leaking adverse information from a criminal investigation instead of charging someone is also unlawful, particularly if it’s done for political purposes. It would be bad enough to have a lawmaker who is in the pocket of a foreign power. It would be worse to have a Justice Department that can’t tell the difference between right and wrong.

  12. The DoJ’s AIPAC prosecution is likely doomed for much the same reason the Stevens prosecution was doomed: Bush’s AG stuffed DoJ with Federalist Society hacks and Regent University grads who made the Federalist Society types look like Louis Brandeis, they were and are so bad. It’s one reason Eric Holder’s had such a tough time cleaning out the Augean stables — institutional memory is shot as most of the good folks left rather than deal with Bush, and many if not most of the people hired under Bush are stupid, evil, or both.

  13. omen said

    didn’t i see steve rosen’s name mentioned? is his trial going to be televised?

  14. smkngman said

    CharlesII said…..
    “Smkngman, may I recommed that you use all caps to fit with your writing style?”

    Thank you for pointing that out to me. Attack form not substance.

    Charles again….
    “You accuse me of lack of reading comprehension, but you (outrageously) trim my comment about Keller to avoid seeing my skepticism about his veracity. This kind of behavior has no place in an adult conversation.”

    Sorry if I offended by trimming your line so here it is in its full meaninglessness.
    “Also: A key element of the story has been refuted. Since it’s Bill Keller doing the refuting, I’ll wait for confirmation, but this story smells wrong.”

    Ya think? Refuted? Keller refuted nothing! Not once is Keller mentioned in the CQ article and there was no claim that Harman contacted him.

    But as Keller said, “”Ms. Harman did not influence my decision. I don’t recall that she even spoke to me”, he was fully aware that Harman had indeed contacted the NYT about holding a story, that if published before the 2004 elections, could have resulted in a Dem in the WH.

    From the NYTimes link posted in the FDL blog I noted yesterday….
    “Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement Monday that Ms. Harman called Philip Taubman, then the Washington bureau chief of The Times, in October or November of 2004. Mr. Keller said she spoke to Mr. Taubman — apparently at the request of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then the N.S.A. director — and urged that The Times not publish the article.”

    How he “apparently” involves Hayden in this is a mystery but Kellers “denial” of contact with Harman was as “misleading” as any Judith Miller spew.

    CharlesII said…..
    “The wiretap may have been used to blackmail a member of Congress or to protect one who had broken the law– or, depending on exactly what the phrase “Israeli agent” means– neither of the two (Josh Marshall has suggested that the “Israeli agent” was actually an American citizen who happened to be pro-AIPAC). In any of these cases, the use of the wiretap was wrong and potentially criminal.”

    I would love for you to prove your allegation that the wiretap as used was illegal instead of just declaring it so.

    Charles again…
    “Furthermore, the matter of whether being overly friendly with an ally of the United States is illegal or not goes back a long way and there have been prosecutorial abuses. The potential for abuse when the contact involves a member of Congress is especially large, since it threatens the separation of powers, one of the cornerstones of our system of government.”

    And in this case? Make your case.

    “As for the publication of the story, it goes without saying that if Harman had been charged, the story would have entered the papers in a normal manner. I have nothing against the newspapers for printing it even so. But government employees took the contents of wiretaps of an American citizen and divulged them. That is probably a crime. Fighting crime by committing crimes is not justice.”

    Iran/Contra, Pentagon papers and so many other cases of government illegality are only exposed when heros speak up despite the potential repercussions.

    Your “analysis” is weak and devoid of supporting facts.

    Try listening to Harmans “denial” interview on NPR. The parsing is simply Rovian.

  15. Charles II said

    Smkngman says, “‘Keller refuted nothing! Not once is Keller mentioned in the CQ article and there was no claim that Harman contacted him. But as Keller said, “’Ms. Harman did not influence my decision. ‘”

    My guess is that you have gotten on your high horse because you think that “refuted” means “proved.” It can mean that. But it has a broader meaning of “to deny the truth or accuracy of.” Since I challenged Keller’s credibility, it’s obvious to any fully literate person that that’s the intended meaning. Which means you can climb off that horse before you fall off.

    Smkngman says, “I would love for you to prove your allegation that the wiretap as used was illegal instead of just declaring it so.”

    Once again, your reading skills fail you. I said, “the use of the wiretap was wrong and potentially criminal.” In other words, I have not alleged that it was criminal, only that it (or the use of its product) may have been. Are you 100% certain that the wiretap was legal and the material was legally released? If not, then we are not in disagreement on this point.

    Smkngman says, “And [were there prosecutorial abuses] in this case? Make your case.”

    There is evidently not enough certain information about this story for anyone to make a case. However, it has been claimed that Alberto Gonzales halted prosecution of Harman. If that is true, that would be a prosecutorial abuse.

    Smkngman says, “Iran/Contra, Pentagon papers and so many other cases of government illegality are only exposed when heros speak up despite the potential repercussions.”

    It’s very interesting that you don’t recognize that Iran/Contra and the Pentagon papers involve Executive branch crimes involving extensive conspiracies, and typically involving corruption of the justice system. Iran/Contra and the material contained in the Pentagon papers resulted in wars costing billions and killing many, many people.

    Harman is not “the government.” She’s a Congresswoman, which is to say, an individual. She’s not in a position to form a conspiracy of any size. If what she is alleged to have done had gone undetected, she would have argued for leniency for two accused men and possibly succeeded. If we accept all the allegations, it adds up to petty corruption, the kind of thing that elections solve very nicely.

    By the way, I did listen to Harman on NPR. People who want to hear something nefarious will hear something nefarious. People like me are waiting for something more substantive before reaching any opinion.

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