Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, has called the alleged interception of her calls with a suspected spy “an abuse of power” and has called for the transcripts of the call to be given to her. As suggested in an earlier blog, she has promised to make the transcript public if given to her. However, she would not confirm the conversation while denying any quid pro quo arrangement to help accused American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists — Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman — in exchange for AIPAC’s help in securing the House Intelligence Committee Chairmanship. While Harman is reported as ending the call with the statement that “This conversation doesn’t exist,” she now denies that the conversation existed as reported in the media.
Notably, the same week that this conversation was revealed, the Administration is reportedly considering dropping charges against the AIPAC lobbyists — precisely what the AIPAC contact reported demanded from Harman in her help to reduce or dismiss charges.
In the conversation with Harman, the alleged Israeli agent promised to have Beverly Hills entertainment magnate Haim Saban, a major political donor, intervene in return for her work on the AIPAC case.
Harman objected to the notion of the government intercepting a member of Congress: “I never had any idea that my government was wiretapping me at all. Three anonymous sources have told various media that this happened. And they are quoting snippets of allegedly taped conversations. So I don’t know what these snippets mean. I don’t know whether these intercepts were legal. And that’s why I asked [Attorney General] Eric Holder to put it all out there in public. . . .Many members of Congress talk to advocacy groups . . . My phone is ringing off the hook from worried members who think it could have happened to them. I think this is an abuse of power.”
There is certainly a constitutional concern raised by such interception. This is precisely the issue in the Jefferson case, which was the focus of earlier testimony that I gave to the House Judiciary Committee. For civil libertarians, however, Harman’s sense of victimization is difficult to square with her prior role and knowledge of the unlawful warrantless surveillance program of the NSA — where citizens were stripped of constitutional protections. These alarmed members who are allegedly called Harman have also shown little concern over the privacy of citizens intercepted in the same unlawful fashion.
The story has highlighted the immense power of AIPAC in Congress. Notably, Harman insisted that “I don’t need to persuade members of the American-Israeli Political Action Committee that I am a friend of theirs. Why would I do some kind of deal? And anyway, let’s have the transcripts out. Let’s see what I said and to whom.”
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