Before commenting on the significance of the Harmon affair, I want to just spell out some relevant dates, to situate the actions of AIPAC, Harmon, etc. I think it is pretty clear that the NSA intercept occurred in late 2005. Here is a brief timeline.
May 26, 2005, Larry Franklin is indicted for passing classified material to Israeli agents.
August 4, 2005, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, both AIPAC employees, are indicted as part of the Franklin spy operation.
December 16, 2005, James Risen's story on the Bush Administration's warrantless-wiretaps appears in the New York Times.
January 20, 2006, Larry Franklin is sentenced to 12 years in prison, as part of a plea agreement, under which he promises to fully cooperate with Federal prosecutors on any investigation in which he may have material evidence.
According to Jeff Stein's CQ initial story of April 19, 2009, AG Gonzales intervened to quash the probe of Harmon, in return for her sounding off in defense of the Administration, when the Risen article came out. Clearly, Risen and his New York Times fact-checkers were calling into the Administration prior to publication, so the White House and AG Office knew it was coming.
So my guess is that the 2005 or 2006 conflicting reports on when the NSA wiretap of Rep. Harmon occurred is somewhat settled. It was most likely some time in late 2005, prior to the publication of the Risen story.
Now, for the meat of the matter. Israel was desperate to get its hands on Pentagon reports on U.S. posture towards Iran and Iran's nuclear weapons program, asymmetric operations in Iraq, etc. They wanted hard copy of a specific document, and the AIPAC boys went to Franklin to get it. Those facts are pretty clearly spelled out in the Franklin and Rosen/Weissman indictments. So this is not such a gray area case of simply getting verbal intelligence over lunch. This was cold, hard espionage.
And furthermore, a senior Mossad official, then "retired" from the official service, named Uzi Arad, was all over the Franklin case. After leaving Mossad, Arad became a top national security advisor to Bibi Netanyahu, and became head of one of the key think tanks in Israel at Herzliya. His outfit hosts an annual global security conference that is probably the biggest such event in Israel, almost parallel to the Wehrkunde annual event in Munich. Arad invited Larry Franklin to attend at least one of these Herzliya conferences, and Arad had at least two meetings with Franklin at the Pentagon cafeteria, in the period leading up to Franklin's indictment.
My assessment is that Arad was functioning as a spy handler for Israel, and was taking control of Franklin at the time the whole thing blew up. After being so badly burned by Pollard affair, Israel shifted some of its spy operations to "think tanks" which just happened to be run by "retired" Mossad case officers.
Late 2005 into 2006, the Pentagon neocon apparatus, Cheney's crew and Israeli rightwing were all agressively pushing war against both Syria and Iran, even though we were going through a very intense phase in Iraq. With Bush and Cheney in their camp, the Israelis were arrogant that they could do anything they wanted in Washington.
Franklin was, remember, a gopher for Feith, Wurmser, Luti, Rhode, Shulsky, Wolfowitz, Perle, Ledeen etal. Franklin had done two tours of duty as an assistant air attache (USAF) in Israel, and was booted out the second time for unauthorized contact with Israeli military and intelligence personnel. He was used by the hardcore neocons to run errands, like pass classified documents, through AIPAC, to Israel. I attended his sentencing, and he was a totally broken guy. His wife had serious medical problems, and she was threatened with jail, for her complicity in his passing classified materials to the Israelis.
So, who might have been the actual target of the NSA wiretap that snared Jane? Rosen and Weissman were already indicted, so it is doubtful they would have been directly involved in the call to Harmon. I am told by a senior U.S. intelligence source that the caller was an American, maybe a dual citizen. So that would tend to rule out Uzi Arad, although he is still a target of U.S. investigation, as evidenced by the fact that he had a hard time just this past week getting a visa to come to the U.S. as the national security aide to Bibi.
Was the caller Dennis Ross? As Col. Lang readers know, at the time, Ross was heading a front group for the Jewish Agency, an official arm of the Israeli government (one might even say that the Israeli government is an official arm of the Jewish Agency). He was working in think tanks financed by Haim Saben, and Saben's name has appeared as a peripheral figure in this sordid affair, through promises of big bucks to the Democrats for the 2006 midterm election. Martin Indyk is another name that fits the bill, and it may be that Indyk's failure to even get an honorable mention post with Obama is indication that he may have been the one.
What Jane Harmon agreed to do is a crime. The conversation, itself, is criminal, and this cannot be ignored. Judging from the reports from those who have read the transcript, by the end of the call, she had already realized she had gone over the edge, and tried to step back by saying "this conversation never existed," but she was already over the cliff, plunging down.
There are secondary issues of concern, including where to draw the line on NSA/FBI wiretapping of sitting Members of Congress, but that is something to be sorted out in proper time. Right now, the FBI is running a Jihad against targeted members of Congress–Abscam II–and that has to be dealt with, but that is a separate issue from this renewed scandal about Israeli spying and influence buying in Washington.
If there is a weakness in the Rosen/Weissman case, it is the failure of prosecutors to indict AIPAC as an organization, and to freeze their activities until the whole matter was adjudicated. Rosen and Weissman are even suing their former employer, AIPAC, for cutting them loose. AIPAC paid them to do exactly what they did, and it should be AIPAC's responsibility to prove otherwise.
We have reached a point where the divergence of national interests between the United States and Israel is widening, as never before. The Obama Administration policy is a just two-state solution. Israel's policy, especially under the current Netanyahu regime, is to exterminate the Palestinian National Movement, and create a bantustan, behind a wall for the Palestinians. It borders on being a concentration camp.
The stakes here are high, and I, for one, want to see a real reckoning. No coverup, no dropping of charges against Rosen and Weissman. Take the Uzi Arad matter to the public. And, in the course of determining who the NSA was targeting, when Jane took the wrong phone call, do not ignore the role, at that time, of the Pentagon and VP neocons, who were, sadly, let off the hook when Larry Franklin took the fall. This is a 30 year spy ring, going all the way back to Dr. Stephen Bryen's spying while Jimmy Carter was still President. It is time to pull the string that unravels the entire fabric, and maybe this Harmon scandal is the last best opportunity to do just that. Harper