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Posted at 6:40 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Jane Harman’s resignation is CIA’s loss

By Jeff Stein

There have to be some misty eyes at the CIA and the other spook redoubts around the city over news of Jane Harman’s resignation.

The feisty California Democrat was such a good friend to the spy agency, no matter the occasional bumping of heads over torture, that it gave her a medal in 2007.

"Jane's brand of oversight was unique as she is -- perceptive, constructive, active," Michael V. Hayden, the CIA director at the time, said at a luncheon honoring Harman, who is leaving Congress to run the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which specializes in national security issues.

Active, indeed. “I live and breathe security 24-7,” she once told The Washington Post.

Not only is the CIA (and other U.S. spy agencies) losing a steadfast friend in Congress, it’s losing an ally with seniority and deep knowledge of their workings, no matter that she is no longer ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel. None of the candidates lining up to succeed Harman in her liberal Los Angeles district, moreover, has anything like her experience with, much less an affection for, the intelligence agencies.

“She’s on a first-name basis with many of our chiefs overseas, and when something was happening -- good or bad -- she would pick up the phone to see what they needed, ask about their families, and the families of their officers," Hayden said at the luncheon.

Harman called her decision to resign “excruciating, because the distinction of representing the smartest constituents on earth will never be surpassed -- nor will my relationships with my exceptional staff and colleagues in Congress.”

But Harman’s pain had begun four years earlier, when Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi rebuffed her bid to chair the intelligence committee. Her willingness to work closely with Republicans on security issues also didn’t help with the incoming Obama administration, where she hoped to land a top intelligence job. Instead, she was consigned to the relative Siberia of the homeland security committee.

Along the way, she was buffeted by a spy scandal of her own, when SpyTalk, and then other media outlets, reported that she had been overheard on a national security wiretap making promises to a suspected Israeli agent to lobby Bush administration officials in an espionage case involving officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Harman denied the allegations. But under probing questioning by NPR’s Robert Siegel, her explanations were more couched.

“No. I can't recall with any specificity a conversation I may have had four years ago. . .” she said. “But here's the problem, Robert — and I'm going to try and get this across again. These are selective leaks. They are quoting — allegedly quoting me — maybe out of context based on transcripts that these people say they've seen.”

With Republicans now ruling the roost, of course, the future held little promise for Harman, who was once touted as candidate variously to run the CIA, Directorate of National Intelligence or the Department of Homeland Security. It was a good time to go.

“Petite, blond, elegant in a nubby suit, a vaguely patrician accent hinting at her Harvard Law School and Smith College education, Jane Harman has a polished, camera-ready exterior, but an inner core of grit, discipline, and unquenched ambition,” a profiler once wrote in Mother Jones.

In her new job as president and CEO of the Wilson Center, she’s getting a new platform and megaphone to return to her first love, the spies.

By Jeff Stein  | February 7, 2011; 6:40 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Politics  
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She was caught on FBI LEGAL wiretap negotiating a bribe to obstruct the Franklin, Weis and Rosen treason and espionage investigation in exchange for the chair on the Select House Intelligence Committee. She then deals her way out of this fiasco by supporting Alberto Gonzales' bill to protect telecoms from civil suit for their ILLEGAL spying on Americans. She complained about the FBI's legal wiretap of her where evidence of corruption was caught on a wiretap due to an active investigation involving Israeli spying, so she sold out Americans being illegally wiretapped to save her skin. If the CIA likes her so much, it must be the Israeli-firsters.

Oh, by the way, how come the CIA never saw Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, or Tunisia? The CIA undermines America and creates enemies like Iran when it meddles by torturing, killing and overthrowing governments. It was involved in the Kennedy assassinations and if America had any sense it would do away with an organization that places itself above the law. I say good riddance Harmon and better riddence when the CIA is gone. The CIA does nothing that the DIA can't do. The U.S. would be better off without the CIA and better off with the traitor Harmon out of office. Maybe she can run for the Knesset. Vote Ron Paul 2012. Americans can't afford not to.

Posted by: digital82711 | February 7, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

All Americans should read:

Posted by: digital82711 | February 7, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Digital: I think you're going way beynd the facts to suggest she was "negotiating a bribe to obstruct" that case. I was the reporter who first reported the national security intercepts of a conversation in which she was overheard--but not the target of an investigation.

Posted by: Jeff Stein | February 7, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

At her heart she had the isreali interests more dear than the American interests and I was glad that she wasn't made the head of the intelligence committee by Nancy. Good riddence. Now she will have enough time to run the electronics business and the failed 'Newsweek".

Posted by: syedahaq2000 | February 7, 2011 11:29 PM | Report abuse

I salute the WaPo editorial board and news editors for this brilliant approach to news reporting:

post a bland, short article that seems to completely miss what's newsworthy
(and also what's controversial and might invite lawsuits,)
but then permit those who know the backstory to fill in the blanks in anonymous comments.

Posted by: BrianX9 | February 8, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Good riddance. She never was involved in CIA oversight but was the CIA voice in congress,and did their bidding. She also did the bidding of the Israeli lobby-often to the detriment of US interests.

Posted by: Munir1 | February 8, 2011 1:03 AM | Report abuse

The rich b**** at age something 70 is over the hill. Sucking up to the conservative republicans, with there malignant narcissism, chronic scape-goating, uncorrectable garb bagging, perversity of inequality, rights only of their bigoted kind, old Janee after marrying money and old geezer something 21 her senior, now have no real options. Looks like she has no kids of her own and the likes of old Hayden and her living and talking 24/7 security hog wash was all an exercise in futility.
What a waste of the nice legs!

Posted by: winemaster2 | February 8, 2011 4:10 AM | Report abuse

You can't serve two masters.

Posted by: DJ_Spanky | February 8, 2011 6:23 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if they have something other than just the tapes of her actions in attempting to cover up the spies for Israel. She was elected to represent the people of her district and she elected to play the spy game and in my opinion she put Israel or her district. I think it is a positive that she leaves and if she was doing more than what has already be released they should put her in a cell with J. Pollard and then she can decide how close she wants to get to her people. Our founding fathers warned us not to get involved in foreign affairs and they were so correct. We now have a congress and senator full of people like Jane who are paid and owned by AIPAC. Lets hope this is just the first of the Israeli first departing.

Posted by: tomofsnj | February 8, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Jeff, I did not say she was the object of the investigation. She got caught because an investigation was already ongoing. But, how did she prevent herself from being prosecuted? she cut a deal with the White House and Aalberto Gonzales about the telecoms to avoid prosecution. The probelm was she was complaining about being caught on a legal wiretap and then voted to protect illegal wiretaps.

People keep voting for the lowest scum of the earth and those most willing to screw this nation for personal ambition and in service to Israel.

The fact is the CIA is not above the law and ought to be prosecuted. They have done so much to harm this country that they have become a curse.

Posted by: digital82711 | February 8, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Maybe her replacement will remember that they represent the USA, not Israel.

Posted by: Garak | February 8, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Another pro-Israeli politician. She won't be missed. Shame we can't lose a few more like her.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 8, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

As I read the comments posted I am reminded about why America is in the difficulty that we are in today. Angry, vial, rude, often ignorant of facts, motivated by political causes rather than what is factual and truthful...

Divide and one ever need attack
America, we will eat our own and self destruct.

Let the feeding begin!

Posted by: peascarrotscorn | February 8, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

peascarrotscorn: Thank you so much for adding this to the discussion. -js

Posted by: Jeff Stein | February 8, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Digital: Thx again for participating in this discussion. But your interpretation of what I reported back at that time just does not comport with what we know. "Cut a avoid prosecution"? I think that's your opinion, which you're welcome to, but not based in any known facts. -js

Posted by: Jeff Stein | February 8, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Jane Harman is the most aggressive, self-aggrandizing, partisan politician the House of Representatives has known. She pretends to be bipartisan publicly, but then with every breath she operates skillfully behind the scenes to whip her political opponents into the mush that they are and have been. What she never could account for, apparently--and this is part of her ego problem--she never thought for a second that she could ever be caught. Apparently, though, she was. If I remember the story as reported, it is asserted that she ended the first of her several calls with the person under investigation with, "This conversation never happened." No one but guilty individuals, those who know the conversation was highly illegal, ever say things like that. So, to prove Jane's accomplished ability to coopt everyone, she obtained the Bush Administration's inaction against her for political ends, and she secured the Obama Administration's inaction against her as well. Truly a bipartisan culprit. Nothing she ever says will be worth the paper it is written on. She is trouble personified and the House's character and reputation has just improved with this announcement.
Hasta la vista Jane.

Posted by: newportson | February 8, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse


I kind of take exception to her District being labeled "Liberal". Remember she left to run for California Governor and a Republican Vietnam Era ex-Marine from the ulter-conservative Palos Verdes Penninsula won her seat. Yes, "Santa Monica" (Soviet Monica) and Pat Haydan are in her district but recognize that the Rand Corporation is also in Santa Moncia as well as the Johnathan Club (their beach club) which has and had members that make George Bush look like a liberal.

Posted by: eGREGie | February 9, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Apologies to Pat Hayden the former USC and Rams QB, Rhodes Scholar, who is now the Athletic Director at USC. I meant Tom Hayden, Hanoi Jane's wife and former Santa Monica City Councilman.

Posted by: eGREGie | February 9, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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