CQ Politics has a must-read article about Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) being caught on tape telling a suspected Israeli agent (i.e., a spy) that she would try to get the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. In return, the (suspected) agent promised to lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman to be the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. At the end of the taped phone conversation, Harman takes a cue from cheap spy movies, saying “This conversation doesn’t exist”.
The more I read about this, the more irony just oozes out of the cracks.
The big question is why the FBI, who had launched an investigation of Harman, dropped the case. At the time they claimed it was because of “lack of evidence” but it turns out that according to three former national security officials, Alberto Gonzales, who was then Attorney General, had the investigation dropped so that he could get Harman to defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program (which was about to be revealed by the NY Times). In plain English, Gonzales wanted to blackmail Harman, and apparently he did. When the scandal broke, Harman attacked the NY Times, saying of the warrantless wiretaping “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.”
According to one of the former national security officials “It’s the deepest kind of corruption, which was years in the making.”
In the end, all this shady dealing was for naught. The Justice Department did not reduce the charges against the AIPAC officials. Gonzales was brought down by the warrantless wiretapping scandal. And Jane Harman never made chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
But the big question that CQ doesn’t ask is, why is this coming up now? All of this happened before the 2006 elections. Who stands to gain by releasing this information now? Could it be someone who wants Congress to make warrantless wiretaps illegal again? An enemy of Harman? Someone who wants Gonzalez and other Bush administration officials to be investigated for corruption? I don’t have any answers, but I’m sure curious.
UPDATE2: A really good explanation of the whole thing: