Leak targets Rep. Harman: Another coincidence? (updated)

The long-delayed trial against two former officials at AIPAC  is scheduled to start soon and -- what a coincidence! -- a rumor circulated three years ago about the potential involvement of Congresswoman Jane Harman  suddenly is repeated , this time with more detail:

Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman's help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."

Harman declined to discuss the wiretap allegations, instead issuing an angry denial through a spokesman.

"These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact," Harman said in a prepared statement. "I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves."

It's true that allegations of pro-Israel lobbyists trying to help Harman get the chairmanship of the intelligence panel by lobbying and raising money for Pelosi aren't new.

They were widely reported in 2006, along with allegations that the FBI launched an investigation of Harman that was eventually dropped for a "lack of evidence."

What is new is that Harman is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington.

And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for "lack of evidence," it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.

Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House.

As for there being "no evidence" to support the FBI probe, a source with first-hand knowledge of the wiretaps called that "bull****.

As I wrote two and half years ago,  

... the odor of anti-Semitism on the left and the left's continued takeover of the party, and the left wing war on two prominent Jewish Democrats is something worth keeping an eye on.

In 2006 I believed the Dems leaked it to force her to move into line on security issues. I think it's now being reprised to poison the jury pool and perhaps even force her off the intel committee altogether. Something's afoot. I can't say I am positive what it is . (Remember in the last election Maxine Waters unbelievably went into Harman's district and campaigned against her.)


JTA thinks the story is suspicious.  Even left of center Josh marshall  is skeptical.
In the meantime, Harman is scheduled to address the May 3 AIPAC opening plenary.

Looks like Dept of Justice's Brenda Morris, now under a contempt order and the subject of an investigation for her work on the Stevens' case and who played a supervisory role in the Libby case, also plays a role in the Harman story, per the account in Stein's report at CQ

Update: Ed Lasky adds:

This is a bit of an old story-first emerged in '06. Now that the Justice Department's case against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman seems to be on the verge of being dropped for lack of a legal case and evidentiary issues, someone is choosing to leak elaborate stories about NSA tapes and Harman-hoping to keep the trial and the issue alive.

I am also wondering if this is retribution for Rosen's effectiveness in derailing the  Chas Freeman nomination. By keeping the "scandal" alive, perhaps the leakers want to keep the trial and the pressure (and misery, and legal fees) on Rosen.

I have been routinely ignoring all stories that don't name sources. I have been burned before about the veracity of their tales.

Rick Moran adds:

I think Ed is on to something here. That trial of the AIPAC employees was supposed to start in a couple of weeks. And here, buried in that CQ story, is a possible verification of Ed's hypothesis that this was leaked by people who wish to see the AIPAC case move forward:

Harman dodged a bullet, say disgusted former officials who have pursued the AIPAC case for years. She was protected by an administration desperate for help.

"It's the deepest kind of corruption," said a recently retired longtime national security official who was closely involved in AIPAC investigation, "which was years in the making.

"It's a story about the corruption of government - not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption."

I don't know if the story is true - there may be elements of the truth in there. Without the transcript it is extremely hazardous to characterize Harman's conversation with the Israeli "agent." But there appears to be enough spinning of what was said to make AG Gonzalez look very bad as well.

This story has some legs and probably won't die anytime soon. And btw, the leakers of this NSA wiretap - a domestic wiretap on a Congressman - are going to be hunted down with everything the NSA has. This was an extraordinary breach of security - even worse than many Bush-era leaks done to discredit his policy and damage him politically. I have little doubt that the NSA will not rest until the leakers are identified and punished.

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