Jane Harman's Wiretapped Conversations
Rep. Jane Harman is asking the Justice Department to release its transcripts of wiretapped telephone conversations she reportedly had with a suspected Israeli agent in 2005 or 2006, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It had been reported several years ago that federal investigators looked into the California Democrat's discussions with the suspected Israeli agent. But yesterday, Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein published significant new details, including the allegation that the conversations secretly captured by NSA wiretaps were "directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington."
Stein's account, and follow-up articles today, raised questions about the conversations' links to at least two ongoing Washington scandals: the espionage case against two officials of the main Israel lobbying group and the NSA's secret domestic surveillance wiretap program.
CQ's sources, and sources cited today in the New York Times, say that Harman was caught on the wiretap telling the suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby Bush administration officials to reduce the charges against the two members of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) accused of spying. In exchange, the sources said, the suspected agent promised to help her get appointed chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
CQ said that, according to its sources, Harman told the caller she would "waddle in" to the espionage case "if you think it would make a difference." She also said, "This conversation doesn't exist."
The Times today quoted officials "familiar with the transcripts" as saying they know of no evidence that the congresswoman ever intervened.
Harman told CQ in a statement, "These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact. I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves."
And today, Harman wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing outrage that she had been wiretapped.
"This abuse of power is outrageous and I call on your Department to release all transcripts and other investigative material involving me in an unredacted form," Harman wrote. "It is my intention to make this material available to the public."
In an interview today with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, Harman defended her friendship with AIPAC.
"I didn't need to cut some deal with AIPAC for any reason. I talk to them, I talk to lots of advocacy groups and constituency groups all the time, about a range of issues," Harman said, adding that "it was certainly no secret in 2005 and 2006 that I hoped to be named chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections."
More after the jump:
Time magazine's Timothy Burger first reported in 2006 that the FBI and Justice Department were investigating whether Harman was working with AIPAC in a scheme to get her reappointed as the top Democrat on the intelligence committee.
Among the questions the federal investigators were exploring, according to Time, was whether Harman promised to lobby Justice or the White House to get the espionage charges reduced for Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two AIPAC staffers charged with passing classified information to the Israeli government.
(Their trial is to begin this summer. They allegedly worked with a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, Lawrence Franklin, who was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for improper handling and disclosure of classified information.)
There were later reports that the FBI had dropped the Harman investigation for lack of evidence. But CQ, citing three former national security officials, reported this week that then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales halted the investigation because he wanted Harman to defend the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The program was about to be made public by the New York Times.
The Times also reported today that, according to its sources, Harman's caller had promised Harman that in exchange for her help with the espionage case, California billionaire Haim Saban would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.),, who was to become Speaker of the House, if she didn't pick Harman as intelligence chairman.
By The Editors |
April 21, 2009; 5:30 PM ET
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