Harman remainders


Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic asks why the former national security officials who leak sensitive transcripts aren’t facing charges under the very law they’re apparently trying to defend.

At the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Blog, Steve Aftergood has the most succinct take on how inneffable the charges are against Jane Harman:

By all authoritative accounts, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) did not interfere in the investigation of two former pro-Israel lobbyists who were suspected of unlawfully receiving and transmitting classified information.  She did not seek to win favorable treatment for them from the Justice Department.  They did not receive any such treatment.  And she did not become chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Nevertheless, she stands accused of saying that she would get involved in the case of the pro-Israel lobbyists in exchange for outside efforts to promote her candidacy to be chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Aftergood also uncovers a little gem: The case against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two former AIPAC staffers at the crux of the Harman story, is  about government overclassification. As a blogger waiting out his trial, Rosen started the ball rolling that eventually crushed Chas Freeman’s chances of becoming chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman tells Jim Lobe that one of his priorities as NIC chair would have been to … classify less:

In general, I would’ve tried very hard to encourage members of the intelligence community to use classified information as a form of corroboration for information that is not classified, or is not terribly sensitive even if it is classified. In other words, I would urge analysts to write down rather than write up terms of levels of classification. The theory here is that, whereas many people in the (NIC) have tended to see the value of intelligence as directly proportional to its level of classification, this, in fact, misunderstands the nature of intelligence. Intelligence is simply information that is relevant to statecraft or decision-making. If it’s on the front page of the (Financial Times) or Inter Press or has been stolen out of the Kremlin safe, the key question is what is its reliability and how much can you rely upon it in understanding the situation you confront and in forming policies to deal with that situation.


At CQ, Jeff Stein rejects arguments (including mine) that his Harman revelations were generated by the intelligence community; he says he initiated the story.

At Salon, Glenn Greenwald, noting that Jane Harman, eager defender of eavesdropping has evolved into Jane Harman, outraged victim of eavesdropping, gets my Nelson Muntz award for most extended "Ha Ha."

Dan Fleshler, my favorite "realistic dove" has a fun "who’s the biggest dummy" list.

Finally, over at Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt keeps dismissively referring to this blog as "Israel’s defenders" (in the context of my Harman posts.)

What does he mean? Do I defend Israel’s existence? So does he, repeatedly.

Is he saying I reflexively defend Israel’s leaders, whatever the color of their politics? But I don’t.

So what’s behind this?

Walt and John Mearsheimer never replied to my debunking of their little book. (They told a colleague they found it "disappointing," but never bothered to say why. I was told by a couple of folks close to them, though, that it was among the most devastating takedowns of their thesis.)

This is in keeping with Nicholas Kristof’s takedown of our increasingly atomized political culture:

One classic study sent mailings to Republicans and Democrats, offering them various kinds of political research, ostensibly from a neutral source. Both groups were most eager to receive intelligent arguments that strongly corroborated their pre-existing views.

There was also modest interest in receiving manifestly silly arguments for the other party’s views (we feel good when we can caricature the other guys as dunces). But there was little interest in encountering solid arguments that might undermine one’s own position.

Enjoy the silly arguments, hold them up and mock them … and ignore the substantive arguments.

But that’s a little self-congratulatory on my part. The real question is: Is Stephen Walt a practitioner of the politics of the lazy, ad hominem attack and dismissal?

Why, yes.

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