For civil libertarians, this story is proof of a divine being. Rep. Jane Harman has long been criticized for her knowledge of the unlawful warrantless surveillance program and torture program. The democrats have blocked any investigation into the unlawful programs in part to protect democratic members like Harman who would be implicated. Now, it has been reported that Harman was captured on an NSA surveillance allegedly cutting a deal with a suspected Israeli agent to help reduce charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. Harman allegedly offered the help in exchange for AIPAC securing her the position as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. According to CQ, Harman offers to “waddle into” the AIPAC case in exchange for help securing the Chairmanship. Harman reportedly ended the call with the suspected spy with the warning “This conversation doesn’t exist.”
Harman has long denied that she tried to cut a deal with AIPAC, but Congressional Quarterly reports that it was not previously known that she was actually captured in one of the surveillance operations that she helped establish through a lack of oversight.
In a prepared statement, Harman insisted that “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.”
The report would confirm again not only the lack of serious oversight of Democratic members on this committee but the all-powerful role played by AIPAC on Capitol Hill. In the CQ report, Harman portrays AIPAC as having the authority to help secure the position for her. When these allegations were first reported, then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales quashed the investigation of Harman, who was vital to the Bush Administration in pushing through their wiretapping legislation.
If true, the wiretap transcript would directly contradict Harman’s public statements and increase calls for her possible censure and expulsion. It also creates an interesting comparison with former Illinois Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich who was indicted for trying to give the appointment to the U.S. Senate to people who would give him political contributions or appointments for his wife. Here, Harman is allegedly offering to use her senior position on the House Intelligence committee to force a reduction of criminal charges if AIPAC would secure the chair position. At a minimum, it raises serious ethical questions and, if the prosecution of Blagojevich is a measure, it could raise criminal questions. What will be particularly interesting if Blagojevich will try to raise this matter in his trial to show that this is standard politics.
At a minimum, Harman should call for the entirety of any wiretap to be made public. Obviously, there is no national security issue since she and the caller are fully aware that they were intercepted. Harman should also explain if she was aware of such a transcript and whether she took steps to keep the tapes sealed.
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