Pelosi Knew of Harman Wiretap
By Paul Kane
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today acknowledged that she was briefed "a few years ago" by Bush administration officials shortly after Rep. Jane Harman was ensnared in a wiretap. But Pelosi denied that the subsequent criminal review by the Justice Department or any pressure from Harman's pro-Israel supporters played a role in denying the California Democrat's ascension to the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 midterm elections thrust Democrats into the majority.
Pelosi, who had yet to speak about her knowledge of Harman's appearance on the wiretap, said it is a "tradition" for the top Democrat and top Republican in the House to be alerted any time a member shows up on wiretaps or other surveillance devices, something that occurred when security officials were surreptitiously recording the conversations of an American supporter of Israeli causes.
She did not let Harman know about the matter: "It wasn't my position to raise it with Jane Harman, no. In fact I didn't even know what they were talking about. All they said was that she was wiretapped."
Congressional Quarterly reported on the wiretap earlier this week. Current and former administration officials confirmed for The Post that Harman could be heard discussing the possibility of asking Bush White House officials about seeking leniency for two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, both of whom were subsequently
indicted for espionage charged under a World War I-era espionage law with conspiring to give national defense information to journalists and Israeli Embassy officials. Prosecutors are reviewing the case now and considering dropping the case.
The accusations sparked a criminal review because, in exchange for seeking
leniency for the AIPAC lobbyists, Harman allegedly sought the support of
pro-Israel donors in her campaign to move from ranking minority member to
full committee chairman, once Democrats were in the majority. No charges were brought, and Harman has denied that she spoke to Bush administration officials about the prosecution.
Harman has asked for the Justice Department to release the transcripts from her surveillance. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said today he was concerned about how and why a member of Congress could turn up on a national security wire tap, assuring reporters he would seek more information from Attorney General Eric Holder.
"The stories that I've read give me great concern, and I'm going to be in the process personally of finding out more about it and then, with the speaker, determining what action, if any, needs to be taken. I think the Justice Department needs to take this under consideration," Hoyer told reporters.
Pelosi said she had "great confidence" in Harman, whom she called a "patriotic American," but the speaker acknowledged Harman did mount a furious campaign to become chairman. "Many, many, many of Jane's friends talked to me about her being made chair of the Intelligence Committee, none of them in any threatening way," she said.
Pelosi specifically denied any reports that Harman's campaign, or her original support for the Iraq war, influenced her decision. She said it was based entirely on tradition that the top slot on the intelligence committee -- selected solely by the speaker -- usually serves a two-term limit. Harman was appointed ranking member of intelligence in 2003 and served in that role through two congresses, until 2007.
"Jane was there for two terms. When she leap-frogged over the others, I said, that's just for two terms. So when we took the majority, the idea that Jane would have three terms, was inconsistent with the commitment that I had made and the custom that we had and continue to have," Pelosi said. "So the only reason Jane is not chairman is because she served two terms. It had nothing to do with her position on Iraq, had nothing to do with donors, had nothing to do with eavesdropping, what are we calling it, wiretapping. It had nothing to do with anything. It only had to do with the fact that this extraordinarily talented member of Congress had served her two terms."
Posted by: DwightCollins | April 22, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: frazeysburger | April 22, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dgward44 | April 22, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: gargoyle22 | April 22, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: gargoyle22 | April 22, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Christine8 | April 22, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnc_80 | April 22, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ICantBelieve_ItsCongress | April 22, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nealhugh | April 23, 2009 1:58 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dontblamemeivoted4gore | April 23, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MikeLicht | April 24, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.