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The “deepest kind of corruption”

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.

UPDATE: TPM also wonders why this is coming out now. They also have a timeline of the events. And Glenn Greenwald has further information.

UPDATE2: A really good explanation of the whole thing:



  1. Daniel wrote:

    As someone who used to be a Washington player, my gut reaction is that this is coming out now because it is perceived as “water under the bridge.” The deepest kind of corruption has always been better known as “going along to get along.” DC is actually fairly good about getting the truth out, once that truth ceases to have any real import.

    It’s possible that her name is being mentioned in certain circles and someone is trying to ice her. I don’t follow the Hill closely anymore so I can’t say. But I’m skeptical about that theory because CQ Politics is not the first place it would occur to me to ice someone. As for your other theories, this story doesn’t really have an impact there.

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    Maybe it’s not about Harman. Maybe it’s about Gonzalez. Obama has not promised to go after the “architects” of the torture and other illegal programs of the Bush administration. Even if a criminal prosecution doesn’t take place, there has been talk of disbarrment of the lawyers who provided the legal rationale for these programs. This kind of behavior on the part of Gonzalez would be sufficient reason for disbarrment in most states.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 5:53 am | Permalink

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  1. Political Irony › Your Government Not at Work on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    […] Jon Stewart has the clearest (and most enjoyable) explanation of the Jane Harman influence scandal: […]