Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 20, 2009

The Harman Wiretap Case

Congress women Jane Harman was caught on tape by the NSA talking to an Israeli agent. She agreed to influence a court case of an Israeli spy in return for a promise that Israel friendly lobbyists would further her (and their) interest.

The investigation against her was then shut down by the Bush administration for getting her support for furthering the administrations interest.

  • The case is NOT an argument against NSA wiretapping. For all we know from the Congressional Quarterly piece the wiretap was court approved, likely on an international line and primarily directed at a foreign spy.
  • The case is a scandal because Harman was willing to sell out to foreign interest.
  • The case is a scandal because the Bush administration stopped an investigation to blackmail Harman into doing its business.

The questions now should be:

  • Who else in Congress is directly working under Israeli direction on Israeli and against U.S. interest?
  • Who else in Congress was blackmailed by the Bush administration?

Any answers?

Update: Missed one very important question:

  • Why is this leaked now?

Posted by b on April 20, 2009 at 13:14 UTC | Permalink


i recollect there was a big stink when the dems took over because pelosi refused to assign harman as chairman of House intelligence committee. . it was a real showdown. harman has always been in israels pocket. it probably pissed of the neonuts she wasn't put in charge.

the nation 11/06

This is a tough call for Pelosi. The current senior Democrat on the committee is Representative Jane Harman from California, and Pelosi wants her out. There has long been bad blood between Harman and Pelosi, who preceded Harman as the top Democrat on the panel. Pelosi, according to several Capitol Hill sources, has been upset with Harman's performance on the committee and has faulted Harman for not sufficiently confronting the Republicans and the White House.


Under House rules, seniority--which usually dictates which legislator becomes chair of a committee--does not apply to the intelligence committee. Pelosi is not obligated to hand the gavel to Hastings should she bounce Harman from the top Democratic spot on the committee.

harmon and pelosi are both from calif. i'm sure harmon and the israelis had expectations of getting that chairmanship.

Posted by: annie | Apr 20 2009 14:27 utc | 1

Getting tossed off of Intelligence put a hurt on Janie's income from The Lobby.

Campaign contributions, Jane Harman (D-CA)

Top 5 Industries, 2005-2006, Campaign Cmte

Industry Total Indivs PACs
Lawyers/Law Firms$58,971 $48,200 $10,771
Pro-Israel $53,150 $43,150 $10,000
Securities &
Investment $51,750 $44,750 $7,000
Real Estate $50,127 $40,127 $10,000
Retired $42,850 $42,850 $0

Top 5 Industries, 2007-2008, Campaign Cmte

Industry Total Indivs PACs
TV/Movies/Music $66,288 $24,000 $42,288
Misc Manufacturing
& Distributing $36,816 $31,816 $5,000
Lawyers/Law Firms $30,250 $20,250 $10,000
Pro-Israel $25,600 $19,100 $6,500
Real Estate $25,400 $15,400 $10,000

Lawyers/Law firms too.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 20 2009 14:36 utc | 2

Just a thought... maybe there are enough cracks in the facade the swine behind the curtain are setting up a few bowling pins to knockdown. Sacrifice a few low level players and protect the bigwigs?

As Karl Rove was fond of saying, "let them eat democrates" when asked what could be done about the poor starving federal courts.

All elected officials should be considered as "unclean" and treated with the sort of special reverence such fools deserve. Cages, rotten fruit and gallons of spittle... maybe a handful of feces for guys like Dick C, but maybe this is even too good?

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 20 2009 15:40 utc | 3

"Who else in Congress is directly working under Israeli direction on Israeli and against U.S. interest?" (b)

Let me count the ways! Both California Senators, Senator Schumer, Secy of State Clinton, VP Biden, Presidential Chief of Staff Emanuel. . .. The question is, who isn't?

Of course, the majority aren't needed to take a lead role -- they are merely told when to go along.

Posted by: senecal | Apr 20 2009 15:45 utc | 4

Keller (NYT) denies it was Harman that persuaded him to hold back the FISA story before the 2004 elections. Which he did.

Of course he does. Furthermore, clustered aspens don't connect at the roots. Everyone knows this.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Apr 20 2009 16:56 utc | 5

Right after the election she was promoting herself to be selected for head of the CIA.

Posted by: Maxcrat | Apr 20 2009 16:56 utc | 6

b, Maybe Rahm and Pres. want to pressure Bibi for concessions on Palestinian state.Obama's going to need something big to divert attention from not prosecuting war crimes.

Posted by: par4 | Apr 20 2009 17:05 utc | 7

I can't understand why everyone is calling this a quid pro quo situation. My knowledge of Harman and the Israeli lobby would have me believt that working in each others interest to be their natural course of action. I don't think there would have to be any special arrangement to make this happen.

Posted by: Sgt Dan | Apr 20 2009 17:09 utc | 8

Yeah, like AIPAC/Israel would need a real incentive to push for the likes of Harman as chair. This part of the story doesn't add up.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Apr 20 2009 17:23 utc | 9

Via TPM - the JTA's take on the article.

Posted by: Sgt Dan | Apr 20 2009 18:25 utc | 10

But what if this investigation undermines US security? That is the argument against investigating the torture suspects...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Apr 20 2009 19:17 utc | 11

Another question is: Who benefits from the additional information in this disclosure (via anonymous sources)-- and why now?

See Talk Left post and comments.

I'm not defending Harmon; just wondering why, who, what, why, etc. Was she set up? Has BushCo collected records on all Congress Critters? Does it explain why the Dems are so reluctant to, say, really investigate the torture chronology and players or, even, what's really gone on with Big Bankster Boiz and the financial Big $hit Pile and Meltdown? Are they all compromised? As noted above, the appearance of unethical or illegal behavior can sometimes take down a pol -- if the MCM* plays along....

Is this a warning from the current Unitary Executive that Big Brother has been and is watching the pols?

*MCM--Mainstream Corporate Media

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 20 2009 19:50 utc | 12

My knowledge of Harman and the Israeli lobby would have me believt that working in each others interest to be their natural course of action.

what are you saying sgt dan? how is it in a US senators interest to work on behalf of representatives of another country who are being prosecuted by our government? and why is it in the best interest of the US to have agents from another country influencing who chairs our intelligence committee? and if they do that how is that not quid pro quo? are you saying it is normal when you say 'natural course', or 'to be expected'?

from the #10 jta hasbara link.

, yet their supposedly damning leaks are rehash

no, they are not. this is just recently disclosed.

the story's major news is not about her alleged misdeeds, but that the National Security Agency was listening in on her call, and that the CIA boss wanted to get a tap on her.

no, that is not true. if the allegations are true it is against the law.

asks Harman to see what she can do to intervene on behalf of Rosen and Weissman. She says she doesn't think she can do much, but she'll do what she can. So far, congressional business as usual

not really. they want a case shut down. this coincides partially what gonzales justice dept ask of the DA's during the scandal that got him throw out. when someone says 'this conversation didn't happen', it means they know they are breaking the law. specifically obstruction of justice.

The crime of obstruction of justice includes crimes committed by judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and elected officials in general. ....

Modern obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, refers to the crime of offering interference of any sort to the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other (usually government) officials.

jta is just spinning like usual.

Posted by: annie | Apr 20 2009 20:07 utc | 13

i guess i am not the only one who figured that out. i just googled obstruction of justice and jane harmon. just one

Jane Harman is also in a little hot water, as what she apparently proposed to do sounds a lot like obstruction of justice. She won't be able to count on the support of the House leadership because of her enmity with Speaker Pelosi. Jane Harmon's continued membership in the Congress is in doubt. A prosecution may be in her future.

Despite the fact that Jane Harman got caught, this kind of influence peddling goes on as standard operating procedure in the Congress. Members of Congress profit by it and by and large get away with it. The line between proper constituent service and unethical or even illegal influence peddling gets blurred, especially in the hot house, inside the beltway culture.

here's another regarding the nsa story

However, if Fredo did what is alleged here, well, in that case I am qualified to say that that sounds one hell of a lot like obstruction of justice. Killing an FBI investigation of a legislator because he - and the White House - needed that legislator in its corner because a newspaper was about to break a big and unflattering story is about as obstruction-of-justicey as you can get, innit?

that makes 2 cases of tampering.

Posted by: annie | Apr 20 2009 20:19 utc | 14

Annie nails it. Harmon kills an investigation of Israeli spy. Gets caught on wiretap doing so. Gonzalez kills investigation of Harmon. Why disclosure now? Seems to me the people pushing this are the lower-level DOJ people who a) caught Harmon and then b) got shut down by Gonzalez. They would be righly pissed off, and would spill to a journalist as soon as it was safe for them to do so (ie when neither Bush nor Gonzalez nor Harmon can any longer hurt them). No conspiracy theory needed. It makes total sense to me. Only Q is who was the wiretap target-- Harmon or the person she was talking to? If Harmon, that's really bad and suggests Gonzalez was trying to get dirt to blackmail her. If the other person, then it depends whether or not they were a US citizen at home of a foreign person abroad. If a foreign person abroad, wiretap totally legal and above-board. If a US citizen at home (which is what Josh Marshall at TPM thinks-- thinks it was Haim Saban) then the wiretap surely was part of the illegal program.

Posted by: theexile | Apr 20 2009 21:04 utc | 15

"If a US citizen at home (which is what Josh Marshall at TPM thinks-- thinks it was Haim Saban) then the wiretap surely was part of the illegal program."

Newshoggers, Crooks and Liars, etc have parsed the statements down and it appers that Harman, was caught, on a FISA Warrant approved, (you know, the old way of doing business) on a Foreign Agent, (Haim Saban).

Just because you are a US Citizen, doesn't mean you arn't a foreign agent.

I would suspect that this is an Obama Administration shot across the bow, of AIPIAC.

Posted by: Jimbo | Apr 20 2009 21:30 utc | 16

Only Q is who was the wiretap target-- Harmon or the person she was talking to?

theexile , via jawbones link i ended up @ marcy wheeler. it was the person she was talking to. i sort of recall the other day news slipped a congressperson was recorded talked to a suspected spy w/terrorist associates. i'm thinking this may be the same case since the story is right on its heels.

The CQ story makes it clear that this wiretap was court approved and was directed not at Harman, but at the suspected Israeli spy whom she was talking to.

" 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."

her guess is Naor Gilon.

@ #12 talk left link..Who the conversation was with is crucial under FISA:

(A) the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power: Provided, That no United States person may be considered a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States . .

naor is Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the Embassy of Israel in Wash, and an israeli citizen implicated in the spying scandal. whoever it was was the target of the wiretapping, not harmon.


What is absolutely astounding, however, is that someone well-versed in intelligence like Harman got on the phone with someone reported to be under investigation at least a year earlier, agreed to a quid pro quo, and then said (so the NSA could hear her), “This conversation doesn’t exist.”

i'll say. one of the commentors

That’s not just Stupid and Reckless, it’s Treason.

Harman wasn’t defending US - she was aiding and abetting Spying on US.

Quid-Pro-Quo - for Herself and Israel - Chairmanship for her, Reduced Charges for Israel.

Then, when Gonzo got the drop on her, what did he and she do?

Quid-Pro-Quo with Bush to Secretly, Warrantlessly Spy on US!

What else can We conclude Except that She’s a Criminally Scheming, Self-Interested, Stealth Neocon whose first Loyalty is Not to America?

Posted by: annie | Apr 20 2009 21:43 utc | 17

i screwed up on the italics. naor was the agent franklin was accused of passing the classified information to. if this is who she was bargaining w/it is in the major toxic arena.

maybe harmon is a spy for israel!

Posted by: annie | Apr 20 2009 21:49 utc | 18

greenwald, includes interview w/stien.

Posted by: annie | Apr 20 2009 22:15 utc | 19

so far, nothing I've read suggests the "all-powerful" Israeli lobby tried to compel Harman to do anything against her will. And the question is how many other congressmen are in the business of voluntarily pimping America for their own gain ? Are they really as helpless against the lobby as the the story-line goes ?

we've gone back & forth on this board on the matter of whether its the tail wagging the dog ? And if it turns out its the fleas wagging the dog, we're going to have to start that debate all over again.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Apr 21 2009 1:07 utc | 20

Obama releases the memos and someone takes on the most vulnerable Dem member of the Congress. Msg delivered. Who is next?

This reminds me of the Joe Wilson saga when he went on to protect CIA via one day Niger trip. Cheney correctly called that a Junket.
The Harman story comes out and Obama rushes to the Langley. We are witnessing anther turf battle.

Posted by: Hoss | Apr 21 2009 2:59 utc | 21

I'm not defending Harman by any means. But JTA Reporter Ron Kampeas Says She's Been Set Up

Harman was in the room on the day the Gang Of Eight were briefed on torture. Kampeas suggests she was the lone dissenting voice in the room, and that Porter Goss took exception to her dissent.

Gonzo is alleged to have meeting notes on that meeting, which is being bandied about by Marcy Wheeler and others (I have total respect for Mz. Wheeler, BTW) as being blackmail material.

I myself have long said (perhaps not in here) Pelosi and Reid took impeachment off the table because they were, as were the Gang Of Eight and more, complicit in ginning up the war with Iraq, complicit in condoning torture, complicit in condoning WireTapping. They are guilty, so they can't bring charges up on Bushco's.

WRT Mz. Harman, who is an OBVIOUS shill for Israel and AIPAC, who knows who's looking to bring her down . . . Goss and the Bushie's letting Obama's Admin know they got dirt to still use?

The trial for Rozen and Weissman is set for June, it's a disaster case, and being tagged as an intelligence disaster by over reaching, is Goss seeking revenge? More From Kampeas.

Who knows what's afoot, or at stake. For sure, though, this is the stuff if insider beltway intrigue . . . and that's usually white washed over and we the people rarely see the actual belly of the beasts involved.

Posted by: larue | Apr 21 2009 3:16 utc | 22

My bad>

I wrote: "Harman was in the room on the day the Gang Of Eight were briefed on torture. Kampeas suggests she was the lone dissenting voice in the room, and that Porter Goss took exception to her dissent."

Harman doesn't dissent on waterboarding until 2003 in a letter to the CIA, AFTER that meeting on torture where everyone was supposedly supportive of what was being discussed. From 2007, A Read That Further Complicates Matters.

So, who knows if we'll ever know the truth.

But we sure as hell can guess . . . . and likely not be far off the mark. The darker the guessing, the likelihood of it being close to the bone. They're all crooks and liars.

Posted by: larue | Apr 21 2009 3:25 utc | 23

This is a question.

I wonder if the campaign contributions are as persuasive as Harmon business relationships. It is not difficult to imagine a number of non-biomedical clients for for their Wavemaker speech/voice signal recognition and processing technology. (additional link)

Could be just that - overactive imagination.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 21 2009 5:30 utc | 24

Harmon = Harman.

Probably not. Too ironic.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 21 2009 5:38 utc | 25


Posted by: rjj | Apr 21 2009 6:26 utc | 26

NYT: Lawmaker Is Said to Have Agreed to Aid Lobbyists

The official with access to the transcripts said someone seeking help for the employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group, was recorded asking Ms. Harman, a longtime supporter of its efforts, to intervene with the Justice Department. She responded, the official recounted, by saying she would have more influence with a White House official she did not identify.

In return, the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor — the media mogul Haim Saban — would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was expected to become House speaker after the 2006 election, if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.

Ms. Harman denied Monday having ever spoken to anyone in the Justice Department about Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two former analysts for Aipac. Her office issued a statement saying, “Congresswoman Harman has never contacted the Justice Department about its prosecution of present or former Aipac employees.”

The statement did not, however, address whether Ms. Harman had contacted anyone at the White House or had participated in phone calls in which she was asked to intervene in exchange for help in being named chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee.

Posted by: b | Apr 21 2009 6:50 utc | 27

This link could provide background for the "re-awakening" of the Harman case. Perhaps Hillary and Obama are sending Binny a message? This is only speculation, of course, not even rising to the status of conjecture.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Apr 21 2009 7:42 utc | 28

From Hannah's link-

Lawrence Anthony Franklin was a US Defense Department analyst, who in 2006 was given a 12-year prison sentence for handing classified US military information to Uzi Arad, Naor Gilon, an Israeli Embassy official in Washington, as well as to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, both lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Despite his role in that diplomatic faux pas, Arad has continued his close relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to task him with heading Israel’s National Security Council.

I'd bet the Rosenbergs wished they'd used the faux pas defense...

Faux pas? Passing state secretes a friggin' faux pas... Oh, pardon me, I just slipped some state secrets to Israel, could you please pass the Gray Poupon? Pardon that little faux pas, must have been the goyim I ate last night.

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 21 2009 8:43 utc | 29

This is only speculation, of course, not even rising to the status of conjecture.

The I-Don't-Know spectrum is my zone. But what is the order of regression from conjecturing ... speculating ... guessing ... to ... making-shit-up? What precedes conjecture?

It is important to be correct.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 21 2009 13:02 utc | 30

David S., have you forgotten Karen Kwiatowski on the Larry Franklin burn?

Posted by: rjj | Apr 21 2009 13:21 utc | 31

Laura Rozen

Posted by: rjj | Apr 21 2009 15:58 utc | 32

Jeff Stein posted a follow up on his story.

He says it was not a timed leak.

Posted by: b | Apr 21 2009 17:34 utc | 33

Steven Aftergood at FAS sees nothing nefarious in the whole thing. The only criminal deed, he opines, may have been the leaks to Jeff Stein and the NYT.

And, remarkable and recommendable, Philip Zelikow (Rice counselor) on the issue: The OLC "torture memos": thoughts from a dissenter

The focus on water-boarding misses the main point of the program.

Which is that it was a program. Unlike the image of using intense physical coercion as a quick, desperate expedient, the program developed "interrogation plans" to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.

The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion. Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.
Had a serious analysis been conducted beforehand (it apparently was not), my rough guess is that it might have found that physical coercion can break people faster, with some tradeoff in degraded and less reliable results.

Which underscores the importance of moral analysis. There is an elementary distinction, too often lost, between the moral (and policy) question -- "What should we do?" -- and the legal question: "What can we do?" We live in a policy world too inclined to turn lawyers into surrogate priests granting a form of absolution. "The lawyers say it's OK." Well, not really. They say it might be legal. They don't know about OK.
in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives.

Stated in a shorthand way, mainly for the benefit of other specialists who work these issues, my main concerns were:

* the case law on the "shocks the conscience" standard for interrogations would proscribe the CIA's methods;

* the OLC memo basically ignored standard 8th Amendment "conditions of confinement" analysis (long incorporated into the 5th amendment as a matter of substantive due process and thus applicable to detentions like these). That case law would regard the conditions of confinement in the CIA facilities as unlawful.

* the use of a balancing test to measure constitutional validity (national security gain vs. harm to individuals) is lawful for some techniques, but other kinds of cruel treatment should be barred categorically under U.S. law -- whatever the alleged gain.

The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.

In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution.

Posted by: b | Apr 21 2009 18:15 utc | 34

Zelikow seems to be trying to rescue his reputation from the BushCo taint.

This also puts more pressure on Obama to take action for actual investigations...leading to prosecutions.

Very interesting find, bernhard. Are the Villagers and Versailles courtiers beginning to turn on one another?

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 21 2009 21:07 utc | 35

The comments to this entry are closed.