Comment: NSA listened in on Rep. Harman secret phone deal
April 21, 2009 3 Comments
By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) has been in the limelight since Sunday evening, when veteran national security correspondent Jeff Stein published an article alleging that the Democratic politician struck a quid pro quo deal with a suspected Israeli spy. In the article, Stein cites several unnamed “former national security officials” who say Harman’s incriminating telephone conversation with the suspected Israeli agent was picked up in 2005 by a FISA-authorized NSA wiretap. During the call, the agent asked Harman to pressure US Justice Department officials to show leniency toward two American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists, who were arrested in 2005 for receiving classified information by convicted Israeli spy Lawrence Anthony Franklin. The two lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are still awaiting trial.
According to the former national security officials cited by Stein, both of whom have either read or been briefed about the intercept transcript, Harman responded by indicating she might be able to pressure Justice Department administrators working under then US attorney general Albeto Gonzales. In return for Harman’s assistance, the Israeli agent promised to lobby for her to head the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence after the 2006 mid-term elections. Shortly afterwards, Harman ended the telephone call by saying sternly “[t]his conversation doesn’t exist”.
Stein’s allegations of an underhanded deal between Representative Harman and elements of America’s pro-Israel lobby are not new –they first surfaced in 2006. What is new in Stein’s article is that the secret deal was partly struck on the telephone and that the oral transaction has been recorded and transcribed by intelligence authorities. Also new is Stein’s allegation that several Bush administration officials, including attorney general Gonzales, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, and Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, were notified of Harman’s actions but opposed FBI’s intention to launch a criminal investigation against her. In fact, Gonzales actively “intervened to stop the Harman probe”, claims Stein. The reason? Gonzales and his colleagues counted on Hartman to rally in public support of NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program (operation STELLAR WIND), which The New York Times had notified the Justice Department it was about to reveal.
Interestingly, former attorney general Gonzales has so far refused to deny Stein’s allegations. Likewise, Representative Harman issued an incensed statement in response to Stein’s article, but only denied having pressured the Justice Department on behalf of the two AIPAC members, and has yet to deny that the alleged conversation with the suspected Israeli agent took place.
One of numerous questions that have yet to be answered is who was the “suspected Israeli agent” on the other end of the line? One source has stated that Harman was talking with a US citizen when she was recorded by intelligence agents. Watch this space for more on this developing story.