Are the Harman leaks fueled by her dissent on waterboarding?


Laura Rozen has a superb post up at Foreign Policy’s The Cable dealing with yesterday’s revelations about U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and allegations that she agreed to intervene in the classified information case against two former AIPAC staffers.

It introduces a fascinating new wrinkle: animosity between Harman and Porter Goss, the former CIA director, might have been informed in part by Harman’s dissent on the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique.

Laura casts the leaks in part as pushback from spooked spooks – former and current spies who are concerned that, despite Obama administration pledges to the contrary, the Democratic White House and Congress might yet take law enforcement steps against officials who carried out the Bush era expansions of eavesdropping and of "enhanced" interrogation techniques. She appears to confirm my speculation earlier that these folks are telling Democrats newly in charge: Come after us, and we’ll make life difficult for you too.

Now, there are those in the blogosphere who are already casting the usual good guys-bad guys narrative. At Salon, Glenn Greenwald emphasizes Harman’s statements favoring the eavesdropping expansions – the original CQ story suggests that this was in part quid pro quo for the Bush administration quashing the investigation into her AIPAC dealings.

But it’s never that simple.

Laura reports that in 2002, Porter Goss (then the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee and subsequently CIA director)  and Nancy Pelosi (then the ranking Democrat on the committee, now the House speaker) were among a small group briefed on waterboarding as an interrogtaion method.

Everyone briefed on the technique, in that meeting and on other occasions, approved. Until 2003, when Harman assumed the ranking Democrat slot, learned about the waterboarding – and objected, formally, in a letter to the CIA.

The former intelligence official familiar with the matter noted that Goss has given only one on-the-record interview on these CIA controversies since leaving the CIA director job. In the December 2007 interview, he said that Congressional leaders including Representatives Pelosi and Harman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), had been briefed on CIA waterboarding back in 2002. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," Goss told the Washington Post. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

Who was the lone person the article identified as objecting to the program?

Jane Harman.

Laura also reports that Goss and Pelosi got along (and still do) – and confirms my suspicions that Goss and Harman can’t abide one another (Harman’s rivalries with Pelosi is old news.)

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