Yesterday, the Blogosphere erupted with Jeff Stein's CQ article suggesting that Jane Harman may have interfered in the prosecution of alleged Israeli spies in exchange for a committee chairmanship in the 2006 congress. The information was based upon leaks from wiretaps, according to the CQ article, of a "suspected Israeli agent". Today the NY Times adds new information that should send a chill down everyone's spine. The wiretapped "suspected Israeli agent" was working closely with California Billionaire, Haim Saban, a Major Democratic Donor. This whole affair is starting to smell rotten....
First of all, as a progressive, I do not like Jane Harman. I opposed her support of the Bush administration illegal wiretapping program and my criticism even helped provoke her to a defensive rant on Daily Kos in August 2007, during the heat of the FISA revision battle. In the CQ article, it is alleged that Jane Harman was spared investigation in the "Israeli spy situation" by Alberto Gonzales, not because she was innocent, but because she supported the President's wiretapping program. If Jane Harman committed illegal acts, she should be punished, but I think it important to take a good long look at the CQ article to try to understand the motivation of the leakers:
Who are the sources?
"two former senior national security officials". The romantic interpretation is that these are two line agents who just can’t enjoy retirement until their "last cold case" is solved. But like many issues with major political overtones, the reality may involve political appointees newly unemployed.
And Porter Goss. Why on earth was Porter Goss (then head of CIA) involved in DOMESTIC wiretapping? Jeff Stein was asked this in an online Q&A yesterday:
Mary from Kentucky: Your piece refers to a lot of action vis a vis the CIA re: the FBI investigation with no mention of Mueller and his role.
Since when would Goss be the "go to" on signing off on an FBI application to FISCt for an ongoing FBI investigation? IOW, why is the CIA the spider in the center of the web for the decisions on the FBI investigation, with Gonzales going to Goss to spike the investigation?
Jeff Stein: Very good question. Mueller is the first "go-to," and in his absence, his deputy. But I was told they were out of town when DoJ came looking for sign-offs on the renewal of the FISA tap. Thus Goss was the first to see the new info about Harman, and was intending to act upon it.
Out of town? Again, why is the CIA director in the chain of command for domestic wiretapping? Regardless, this leak seems to be coming from the CIA side of things, with a clear indication that Porter Goss and the CIA favored investigation of Harman.
What is the timing?
The CIA is under tremendous heat right now for torture. The NSA, FBI and CIA are also under the gun because of the wiretapping issues, and the Al Haramain case is moving forward in the courts, which may lead to new problems for the intelligence services. As Barbin MD points out, Stein said in an online chat that the timing of the article release was a coincidence. I would comment that Stein has an impetus to look like he was not played.
Where was the article published?
Why would the leakers go to a CQ journalist, rather than a major news source? Why wouldn't the leakers go to Risen and Lichtblau, who were harshly criticized by Harman and were (according to the Stein article) robbed of election-changing early publication by Harman in 2004? My speculation is because they could more easily sell the story they wanted to tell (See below). The CQ article does several things that would not have been permitted at a bigger newspaper. For example, Stein sets up the appearance of a quid pro quo of delivery of a chairmanship, but the wiretapping is vaguely placed a full year before Dems took control of congress- certainly not a solid trade for committing an allegedly illegal act.
Who are the "heroes" of the CQ article?
Porter Goss (CIA) and the intelligence agents who just wanted to do the right thing, but were thwarted by "politics"
Who is the surface target of the article:
- Harman- someone with minimal power in the Democratic party today.
- Gonzales- someone with no power at all.
- Nancy Pelosi and Democrats- There is the clear implication that Pelosi (The world's most powerful woman) is beholden to Israeli spy agencies- that they could twist her arm into appointing Harman as head of Intelligence Commttee.
Putting all of this together, I think that the leakers' intended purpose can be surmised:
Warning: Do not fuck with the CIA
I think this is a warning shot to Dem leaders in a position to go after CIA/NSA for prosecutions. Harman is chump change, with no major leadership positions. But how many existing Dem leaders got on the phone with Haim Saban, or someone connected with him and the subject of a wiretap? How many agreed to do something that can now be characterized as Congressman xxx agreed to do xxx for Israeli spy?
We already know from the NYT article that Saban gave big money to Pelosi. Were their conversations wiretapped?
Below is a list of who Haim Saban has contributed to in the past 5 years. How many of these folks are on tape agreeing to help out the "suspected Israeli agent"?
Edward J. Markey (D)
Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Xavier Becerra (D)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)
Jane Harman (D)
Hilda L. Solis (D)
Mary Landrieu (D)
Howard L. Berman (D)
Rahm Emanuel (D)
Daniel K. Inouye (D)
Richard J. Durbin (D)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D)
Barbara Boxer (D)
Amy Klobuchar (D)
Harold, Jr. Ford (D)
Bill Nelson (D)
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D)
Joseph Lieberman (D)
John Edwards (D)
Wesley Clark (D)
Evan Bayh (D)
John Kerry (D)
This is a small part of Saban's contributions to the Democratic Party.
Jane Harman is the Horsehead in the bed from the CIA
Weasel and Barbin MD point out below that it is not clear whether the "suspected Agent" is Saban himself, someone working for Saban, or someone who can simply get Saban to do his bidding. Regardless, Saban, or someone close to him was wiretapped while accessing influential congressmen. I have corrected the diary.
Ron Kampeas thinks the CIA may be going after Harman as payback for her 2003 letter opposing waterboarding.
The former intelligence official familiar with the matter noted that Goss has given only one on-the-record interview on these CIA controversies since leaving the CIA director job. In the December 2007 interview, he said that Congressional leaders including Representatives Pelosi and Harman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), had been briefed on CIA waterboarding back in 2002. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," Goss told the Washington Post. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."
Who was the lone person the article identified as objecting to the program?
I think they have more important present day issues to fry. In addition to the threat to others who may be connected to Saban, the CIA may be trying to dilute all the attention from the Torture and Wiretapping by helping foment a little congressional scandal.
Harman's office releases a statement that speaks directly to the possibility that she is being targeted for political purposes:
I also urge you to take appropriate steps to investigate possible wiretapping of other Members of Congress and selective leaks of investigative material which can be used for political purposes. As you know, it is entirely appropriate to converse with advocacy organizations and constituent groups, and I am concerned about a chilling effect on other elected officials who may find themselves in my situation.