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?