The fact that Jane Harman wound up on a wiretap was always a bit, shall we say, odd and disturbing. And Laura Rozen paints a picture wherein it definitely looks abusive—Porter Goss screwing around perhaps in order to protect his corrupt subordinates.
Whatever the case may ultimately prove to be, I think this demonstrates what should long have been obvious, namely that broad surveillance powers are incredibly likely to be used for abusive domestic political purposes. Obviously, there are potential tactical national security gains to be made by letting the NSA and FBI just do whatever they want. But in a strategic sense, what happens when you allow secret unrestrained surveillance power is that harmful abuses wind up swamping legitimate uses of the authority. Unfortunately, back when debates where taking place about illegal surveillance, it was only the hippie bloggers making this point. All Republicans and all “responsible” Democrats like Jane Harman understood that anyone worrying about abuse needs to put a tinfoil hat on.
Now that it looks like Harman has been the target of abuse, I’m hoping she’ll lead a campaign for the sort of broad reforms that can help ensure this doesn’t happen again. But I fear she’ll lead a narrow campaign aimed at simply sending the message “don’t f**k with Jane Harman.”