Jeff Stein at CQ persists in his scoop-the-rest-of-us mode and comes up with quotes from a subsequent conversation between Jane Harman and her alleged "Israeli agent" friend. Nancy Pelosi "went ballistic" when Haim Saban put the screws into her to keep Harman on the House intel committee (really, is this the kind of information Israeli spies are paid to garner? I could have told them that before Saban even made the call).
In the wiretapped conversation, the target was heard telling Harman that "Pelosi went ballistic" when Saban allegedly warned her that if Harman were not made chairman of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections "’you’ll get no more contributions from me,’" according to the former official’s paraphrase of the conversation.
At Slate, Mickey Kaus, who once worked for Jane Harman, wonders what the "is" is here.
So someone convinces her that this prosecution is unfair and she says she’ll probably lobby against it. And then this person puts in a good word for her with Pelosi about committee assignments. If this person is also (unbeknownst to Harman) a spy what does that change? Is that different than if they were an ambassador, or foreign leader, or foreign pundit, or New Republic editor?
Umm, (cough) is that a hint, Mickey? Do you know something?
Laura Rozen at Foreign Policy has six good links (yes, we’re one of them, and that’s what you call logrolling at its most rarefied) and raises some sharp points: An "Israeli agent" comfortable with approaching Harman is someone who must be comfortable with working Congress:
There are lots of reasons to think that the person who was being targeted for surveillance when he communicated with Harman and she came on the FBI’s radar screen was a senior figure at a pro Israel lobbying group. It is not hard to believe that that person whoever he/she is talks to lots of lawmakers. And that all of those conversations were tapped, since that figure, Mr. X, seems to have been under years long surveillance as a suspected "Israeli agent," and who knows, may still be.
Such a person would have been working the administration as well as other lawmakers; who else was tapped?
Say Mr. X is a senior member of a powerful bipartisan pro Israel lobby organization, seeking influence with the administration on a sensitive legal matter during a highly partisan Republican administration with a Republican majority Congress. Don’t you think some of the allies’ help he sought were Republican?
Steny Hoyer, the majority leader in the House, is asking essentially the same question in The Hill – who else was tapped?
“I think the Justice Department needs to take this under consideration as well,” Hoyer told reporters. “Hopefully they are.” He added, “I may have some conversations with the attorney general about that.”
The Hill notes that Nancy Pelosi’s acknowledgment today that she was informed of the tap in real time suggests that the eavesdropping was by the book:
Pelosi said it was a “few years ago, maybe three years ago” when she was informed of the recording and noted that leadership is informed when a member is caught on a wiretap. The Speaker added she did not tell Harman of her knowledge because the information was classified.
“When you have a member of Congress who is overheard in a wiretap … the leadership is informed, and that happened at that time,” Pelosi said on Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “It was not my position to raise it with Jane Harman … All they said is that she was wiretapped.”
"Three years ago" means 2006, months after the indictment in the case Harman allegedly hoped to clear, against former AIPAC staffers Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, had come down on Aug. 4 2005. (Stein has reported 2005, the Washington Post has reported 2006 and the New York Times says it might have been as early as 2004.)
That simultaneously undercuts whatever utility Harman might have had – no amount of politicking gets federal prosecutors to reverse hard-fought indictments – and lends credence to Stein’s original reporting that spooks believed Harman was driven by her hopes of ascending to the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee at a time when the prospects of regaining the House looked brighter than ever for Democrats. (That motive doesn’t stand up in 2004 or 2005, when Dems were still in the doldrums.)
Laura also picks up the increasingly obvious question: The folks who leaked this to Stein are – by their own lights – bigger crooks than Rosen and Weissman could hope to be:
If they didn’t have authorization, which seems unlikely but who knows, the former national security officials who leaked portions of the classified transcripts of wiretapped surveillance of Jane Harman that came out in media reports this week would seem to have technically committed a crime that looks to be in the same family of legal violations that got the former AIPAC lobbyists indicted in the first place – unauthorized disclosure of classified information. However different their perceived agendas and the politics of their perceived motives may seem to be. The irony.
Finally, Tim Rutten at the Los Angeles Times speculates about who’s behind all this. He smells the fear of prosecutors who stand to lose their cherished case against Rosen and Weissman:
Some people are upset that the government’s ridiculously overreaching prosecution of the two lobbyists is falling apart. They know that, under (Attorney-General Eric)Holder, the Justice Department has begun to look for a way out of a potentially embarrassing loss.
And Phil Weiss – dude, we’re the press. We call Jane Harman "Jewish." In the second goddamned graf. Now call me after you crash the poolside pasta picnic at the Knights of Columbus and deliver that cute little speech about the ineffably Italian Gottis.
Yeah, I thought so.