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Ethics Committee looked into Harman flap

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The House Ethics Committee reportedly subpoenaed law enforcement agencies for intercepted communications between U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and a suspected "Israeli agent."

The Washington Post Web site reported Oct. 30 that it had obtained a U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee document from July summarizing about 30 investigations of lawmakers and their staffers. Such documents are meant to be kept secret, but this one appeared on an open network.

In a statement, the Ethics Committee blamed an errant former junior staffer.

One of the entries included a request to the Justice Department, the National Security Agency and the FBI to release "intercepted communications" regarding Harman. These, the Post reported, referred to a conversation Harman is alleged to have had between 2005 and 2007 with an "Israeli agent" seeking her intervention in the classified information case against two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Efforts to get Harman to intervene on behalf of the staffers were first revealed in 2006, when she was the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. Further leaks in April of this year — on the eve of the government’s decision to drop the case against the AIPAC staffers  — showed that an agency was listening in; which agency has never been revealed.

Also, according to reports, Harman’s interlocutor in the call was an "Israeli agent," although it has never been clear if he or she was an Israeli or simply regarded by the eavesdroppers as an agent of the Israeli government. The "agent" allegedly agreed to help Harman secure her continued leadership on the Intelligence Committee; she ultimately relinquished it in January 2007 under a rotation agreement.

Harman demanded the release of the transcripts or tapes, saying they would vindicate her, and the Intelligence Committee launched an investigation.

The Ethics Committee subpoena was issued June 9; it is not clear whether this was in coordination with the Intelligence Committee.

Harman told the Post she was unaware of any subpoena and a former Justice Department official was quoted anonymously as saying that the department declined to respond to the subpoena. The Justice Department in June said Harman was neither the subject nor the target of an investigation.

There was no word on the status of the Ethics Committee investigation.

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