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April 20, 2009
A Rahm Bomb for Jane Harman?
Congressional Quarterly just reported a highly secret National Security Agency wiretap report on Rep. Jane Harman.
Before we get to the content of the wiretap, all you ACLU types should be hitting the ceiling in rage. Because NSA wiretaps are the most carefully protected, super-secret operations carried on by the Federal government. Even during the Bush Administration, when the CIA carried on an unconcealed war on the Bush policy in the War on Terror through selective and politically damaging leaks to the New York Times, no wiretap recordings were released. Wiretaps of Members of Congress are even more sensitive, especially prominent Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.
Keep that in mind as we go on.
The news report quotes three or four sources (it's hard to tell). But the release of an NSA wiretap transcript, in the absence of a court order or public court proceeding, is unprecedented.
So this leak has to come from the top. If these sources are to avoid prosecution and/or loss of their jobs, they must have been assured that the Obama administration explicitly authorized it, and that Attorney General Holder would not prosecute. NSA presumably will not even complain about this leak of its top national security means, content and procedures. Without that top-level assurance, everybody involved in this report has to fear an instant subpoena from the Justice Department and from the House Intelligence Committee.
The report maintains that Rep. Jane Harman talked by phone with a person identified as an "Israeli intelligence agent," and promised to intervene with Nancy Pelosi on behalf of two people arrested in connection with an alleged collaboration between USG personnel and a Israeli government representative. That case is currently being in court.
Which makes the NSF wiretap leak even weirder, because it involves an active prosecution that appears to be going against the government.
I don't know all the ins and outs. I don't know how often Congress people actually talk to each other about these cases. I don't know how often behind-the-scenes influence peddling affects Justice Department investigations into violations of secrecy laws. I do know that the US Government dribbled like an incontinent dog during the Bush years, exposing one secret after another, and nobody got prosecuted at the New York Times. Justice didn't go after the legions of leakers -- like Richard Armitage -- but only after Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, who was railroaded on a process crime by Patrick Fitzgerald.
So the inside-the-Beltway question is: Who, high up in the administration, authorized the leak of a super-secret NSA wiretap against a sitting member of Congress, Rep. Jane Harman (who also happens to be the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee) And how do the anonymous sources know they will not be prosecuted?
Does the fact that Jane Harman agreed with the Bush Administration in significant ways come into this?
I'll bet it does.
Who would have authorized it? If I had to bet, it would be the President or his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, or the National Security Advisor.
Why was the leak dropped at this moment in time? Because the anti-Israel forces are rising to power in the Obama Administration. They are dropping this Rahm Bomb to discredit pro-Israel members of Congress in general, and Rep. Jane Harman in particular.
But Jane Harman was one of the few Members of Congress who seemed genuinely upset about the wholesale leaking against the Bush Administration by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
This is payback.
It has to come from the top.
It is politically timed.
It's a Rahm Bomb. Last week Rahm Emanuel came out in the press, telling the media that Israel would have to withdraw from Jerusalem and the West Bank in order to get US cooperation on the Iranian nuke threat. That was a direct threat to the new government in Israel, putting the cart before the horse. It makes no strategic sense, because all of Iran's neighbors, including the Saudis, are shaking in their sandals about Tehran's forthcoming nukes.
All these events are closely related. The NSA leak bears the power-loving stamp of the radical Left, which could not care less about wiretaps, violations of privacy, and the super-secret status of the NSA.
Shades of J. Edgar Hoover. We're back to the FBI dropping political bombs to strong-arm LBJ.
Civil liberties advocates take note. This is only the first such leak. There will be more.
Combined with the DHS attack on "rightwing extremists" last week, it bodes ill for this administration's respect for the rule of law, not to mention personal privacy.