CQ’s Jeff Stein reports that sometime before the 2006 elections, the National Security Agency wiretapped Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) offering a quid pro quo to unnamed Israeli agents: Harman would lobby the Justice Department to “reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee,” while the Israelis would lobby soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to name Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee.
While this story has been previously reported, “what is new,” Stein reports, is the court-approved NSA wiretap. Previous reports also said that an investigation of Harman was dropped because of “lack of evidence.” However, Stein reports that one official “with first-hand knowledge” of the case “called that ‘bull****’” and that “according to knowledgeable officials,” it was actually then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who intervened on Harman’s behalf in mid-2005 to stop the FBI’s investigation
in exchange for because he needed her help selling the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretap program:
[Then-CIA Director Porter] Goss, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, deemed the matter particularly urgent because of Harman’s rank as the [House Intelligence] panel’s top Democrat.
But that’s when, according to knowledgeable officials, Attorney General Gonzales intervened. According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he “needed Jane” to help support the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times.
Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program.
On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.”
Indeed, nearly a year later, Harman continued to express her approval. “I support the program,” she said in Feb. 2006.
Stein reports that a spokesman for Harman “declined to discuss the wiretap allegations” but instead issued an “angry denial.” “It’s the deepest kind of corruption which was years in the making,” a national security official involved with the AIPAC investigation said.