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.
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.
Read the 2nd half of that quote closely. Am I reading this right? Are they saying that Alberto Gonzales dropped charges against someone who possibly aiding in espionage because he wanted political support?
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.
As a result of Gonzalez's failures....Harman was going to be able to potentially land a top gig at CIA or Homeland Security? Screw tax evasion....glad that this is something that did potentially get discovered in vetting.
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 — 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.
So Justice department officials determined that "Harman had committed a “completed crime,” a legal term meaning that there was evidence that she had attempted to complete it" and still did nothing?
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 [sahyder1 edit: Goss was CIA director at the time], 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.
Beautiful. The things government officials do in this country for Israel.
Not only is this Jane Harman still in congress....she was "relegated to chairing a House Homeland Security subcommittee."
But as the right wing would like to remind us....Barack Obama is the one who's making us less safe by talking about the dark deeds of the past and shaking hands with bad guys.
Source: Jeff Stein CQ Politics