Robert Willman on Harman/AIPAC

Vert_toobin There was a discussion on CNN this morning in which the network's legal adviser, Jeffrey Toobin, answered questions about the Harman/AIPAC affair.  He was extremely dismissive and clearly inclined to change the subject as soon as possible.  In that context I think it is worthwhile to post as a feature this comment by Robert Willman.  pl


"There is a high stakes game of "chicken" going on.

The Congressional Quarterly (CQ) article that kicked this off and the resulting activity on the wonderful Internet has caused the establishment media to respond.

The Washington Post article now dated April 22, 2009 is obviously by its content designed to help Congresswoman Jane Harman and AIPAC. Yet, it contains some curious assertions–

"Harman came to the attention of the FBI when she was heard conversing with someone whom the FBI was wiretapping under a law permitting domestic surveillance of suspected foreign intelligence agents, according to the sources with knowledge of the wiretaps. In that conversation, her supporter, who was the target of the wiretap, allegedly discussed speaking to Pelosi about additional contributions to Democrats if Harman were appointed committee chairman, the sources said."

The Washington Post says it was an FBI wiretap in 2006 targeting a "supporter" of Harman, and that the "supporter" discussed speaking to [Nancy] Pelosi about "additional contributions" to Democrats if Harman were appointed. Without saying so, the article seems to refer to an FBI wiretap pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The New York Times article referenced in the initial posting above says it was a National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap, and that she was "inadvertently" swept up by N.S.A. eavesdroppers who were listening in on conversations "during an investigation …."

If it was a court-ordered wiretap, it could have been obtained by the FBI and the technical collection was done by the NSA. But were both Harman and the person she was talking to in the U.S.? Was it a domestic phone call?

The original CQ article of April 19, 2009 claims it was a "court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington" that revealed the conversation with Harman, and her phone mate was a "suspected Israeli agent" whose identity "could not be determined with certainty". The Justice Department was going to open a case on Harman, and then-CIA director Porter Goss signed off on a FISA application to do electronic surveillance of her.

CQ does not say when the Harman intercept was done, but seems to say it was in 2005, as the article claims that Harman in December 2005 defended the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program as desired by former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, who CQ asserts intervened to block the proposed investigation of Harman. Remember that the Washington Post puts the Harman wiretap in 2006.

The NY Times story says that it is "not clear exactly when the wiretaps occurred". And refers to the other person on the phone only as "someone", and not a "suspected Israeli agent" (CQ) or "supporter" of Harman (Wash. Post).

The tough thing for Harman is that all three articles agree that she appeared to agree to help Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman of AIPAC in exchange for help getting the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.

The NY Times and Washington Post attempt to help Harman's image with the public by trying to create the impression that she did not actually intervene in the prosecution on behalf of Rosen, Weissman, and AIPAC.

What those two newspapers do not tell you is that in federal conspiracy law, the agreement to commit an offense is the crime, and it does not matter if the offense that is the object of the conspiracy ever happens.

Another intriguing thing: as we talk about one phone call, Congresswoman Harman appears to be in more than one recording. NY Times: "… was overheard on telephone calls …" (plural). Washington Post: "… in wiretapping her conversations …" (plural), and "Transcripts of the FBI wiretaps …" (plural).

Were all these conversations with the same "someone", the same "supporter", and/or the same "suspected Israeli agent"?"  Robert Willman

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32 Responses to Robert Willman on Harman/AIPAC

  1. euclidcreek says:

    Jane Harman and the AIPAC crowd are an existential threat to the United States.

  2. Cato the Censor says:

    The way that members of our nation’s oligarchy look out for another would almost be touching if they weren’t so hopelessly corrupt and dysfunctional.

  3. J says:

    What our public needs to understand why our IC is so torqued at the Israelis and their spy apparatuses (i.e. Mossad) and their stealing of U.S. military technology, is that when the Israelis ‘steal U.S. military tech’, that very same tech winds up in the hands of both the Russians and Chinese spy/military apparatuses in very short order.
    The Israelis in so doing ‘hurt’ U.S. national security, and the Israelis call themselves our friends/allies? Another ‘bone of contention’ is that Israel has a bad habit of withholding critical intelligence and in so doing American military personnel wind up dying as a result of the Israeli intentional withholding of life critical Intel (i.e. Beirut barracks bombing, etc.)
    And we still have the decades old with malice and forethought Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty, where the Israeli government and its military/intelligence apparatuses willing chose to attack an unarmed U.S. military vessel and murder its crewmen.
    It’s long past time where our DOD/IC ‘demanded’ that Israel clean up its nests of spies (both overt and covert) they currently have in our U.S., or we the U.S. will do the cleaning process ourselves and when done will not be a pretty picture!
    Israeli intelligence is a ‘hostile’ entity that MUST be dealt with in a very forceful manner as they have repeatedly and still continue to this very day endanger U.S. lives (both military and civilian)!

  4. Highlander says:

    The manner in which MSM is trying to make the Harman story go away. MSM’s essentially ignoring the murder of Colonel William Bennett (unpleasant truths there maybe). These are both examples of MSM censoring the news by selective coverage.
    All of this just demostrates how American MSM journalism has descended into corrupt incompetence along with the other American elites. (with the exception of the military and medicine)
    MSM still wears a tattered tuxedo, but in reality. It has become nothing more than today’s semi irrelevant version of the old Soviet era Pravda.
    Thank god for the internet. How long do you think it will be before the political class with the help of the MSM harpies attempts to suppress the net?

  5. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Could our SST lawyer types clarify a point:
    Is it not only improper but also a federal crime for a member of Congress (or anyone) to interfere in a judicial proceeding? Is this not obstruction of justice, or some other related type of crime?
    Trying to influence a judge in behalf of someone or trying to influence a criminal investigation or the prosecution?
    This is a separate point from the counterintelligence issues raised in these threads on this grave matter.

  6. fnord says:

    My five cents: This is all part of the runup to a confrontation with AIPAC over the two-state solution and Iran. Harman wont get charged, but her influence will be severly curtailed, wich is why this was leaked now. Think of it as taking out the oppositions lead strikers before the battle.

  7. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    Suppose that Israel leaked the Harmon phone call. They want the AIPAC spy trial gone and this might be a warning to that effect – “if you don’t make this trial go away, we’ll expose all your corrupt Congresspersons”. It’s a bit farfetched but given that I feel most of Congress is somewhat, if not completey, corrupt – then why not?

  8. rjj says:

    Highlander, google cybersecurity bill on Google News.

  9. johnf says:

    “The new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran’s rising influence in the region, according to top government officials familiar with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s developing policy on the issue.”
    Things seem to be heating up.

  10. jon says:

    Sounds like this AIPAC staffer ‘Someone’ overplayed his hand and wound up getting less than he might have. Harman seems more than willing to play ball and do their bidding.
    However, when the staffer offered to intercede with Pelosi, this was the proffering of a bribe. Harman recognized this, ended the conversation, and subsequently made no overt acts to carry out AIPAC’s bidding on this matter.
    Harman’s only error was in not disclosing that the bribe was offered to congress or to the FBI at the time it was made. I would expect that members of Congress are presented with such offers on a frequent basis, and generally waive off most as innocent or misguided enthusiasm, or misplaced helpfulness.
    I’m no fan of Harmon’s, but I don’t think there’s much legal basis against her. The AIPAC staffer, on the other hand, made the offer of a bribe to a high government official in the service of a foreign power.
    I can’t believe that Justice is considering dropping other charges against AIPAC employees now.

  11. robt willmann says:

    When I wrote the above posting late last night, I did not retain the fact that the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) article more firmly placed an intercepted telephone conversation of Congresswoman Jane Harman in 2005, as CQ also asserted that she “was overheard on a 2005 National Security Agency wiretap”, and “AIPAC dismissed the two [Rosen and Weissman] in May 2005, about five months before Harman’s intercepted conversation”.
    Thus, CQ places that particular conversation involving Harman in 2005, the Washington Post puts it in 2006, and the New York Times says it is “not clear exactly when the wiretaps occurred”.
    Although not discussed as much yet, just as serious is Congressional Quarterly’s allegation that after Justice Department officials decided there was sufficient evidence to initiate an FBI investigation of Harman, former attorney general Alberto Gonzales “aborted the plan, saying that he needed Harman’s help defending the administration’s warrantless wiretap program”.
    This sounds like an attorney general squashing a criminal investigation for purely political reasons, namely, for help in “defending” to the public a “warrantless wiretap program”.
    Robert Willmann

  12. Cloned Poster says:

    We need to get a life to stop believing politics is an altruistic gesture to give “something” back.
    The AIPAC fund is reverse engineering payback.
    How they must laugh in Tel Aviv bars. As Ms Harman (is she Jewish) might attest?

  13. fnord says:

    Cloned Poster: Ethnicity has nothing to do with it, except for the possibility of loyalty ties that might interfer with the US.
    Off topic: Anyone have any info on the hacked JSF database? Wtf?

  14. fnord says:

    Answer to my own question:
    Shit, its been compromised. It means from a Norwegian pov that its vulnerable to bot shit, and things like that. Thats a *major* breach of security, fckin hell.

  15. Mark Stuart says:

    I’m not totally familiar with the US legal system pertaining to National Security and Spies. But do We The American People have any legal recourse to keep the trial on track, were the Government to decide to drop all charges against the two former AIPAC employees?

  16. charlottemom says:

    That “someone” (revealed by Harmon on NPR to be an American) sure has overplayed his hand in the Harmon affair. Let’s think…which well connected Dem is known to push the envelope, have his hands in everything and get himself caught on wiretapes (remember the F*@k Blago transcripts)…Rahm Emmanuel. My money is on him and he’s already jumped the gun on WH response to prosecuting Bushies on torture methods. Is this scandal more about pressuring “someone” and not about Harman?
    @ Bill Wade — I was never sure that NSA was the actual source of wiretaps. If Israel was the actual source that would be downright Machevellian, but I think improbable.
    Latest on MSM – Pelosi (who endorsed Goss/CIA torture knew Harmon was compromised on wiretaps when she very publicly didn’t choose Harmon
    Dem vs. Dem – this is getting interesting.

  17. DaveGood says:

    one site I read places “Terabytes” right next to “Compromised/hacked JSF data”
    Not something you’d want to see in the same sentence.
    Fingers appear to be pointing, rather conveniently at “Foreign partners” in the JSF program.
    Israel is not mentioned, everyone’s eyeing Turkey.

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    I see no reason to take Harman’s word on any of this, i.e., the national identity of her caller or callers (on several possible occasions)
    With regard to Pelosi’s statement today that she had been notified by the executive branch that Harman was being wire tapped years ago, I suggest tht this notification may have pertained to some other wiretapping DIRECTED AT HARMAN. This transcript may well have little to do with that since the tap was targetted at her caller, not her. pl

  19. Charles I says:

    “The way that members of our nation’s oligarchy look out for another would almost be touching if they weren’t so hopelessly corrupt and dysfunctional.”
    Posted by: Cato the Censor
    “All of this just demostrates how American MSM journalism has descended into corrupt incompetence along with the other American elites. (with the exception of the military and medicine)”
    Posted by: Highlander
    You guys have it bassackwards.
    They are in power, well funded, and emptying your treasury prior to deflating the dollar, along with all real property. They can conjure up a trillion dollar war/corporate welfare plan wherever and whenever required, so long as it doesn’t involve hungry Africans or let autoworkers off any one else’s petard. They have drastically reduced your civil liberties while enuring you to egregious breach of same. Private armed blackwater mercenaries without legal remit reportedly appeared on the streets of New Orleans to enter, but by no means fill, the vacuum created by your Federal government. PBS is starving while Rush and his ilk command a rabid following. 49% of you , you, you . . . folks, my friends, voted for Sarah Palin. War is money and you have war wars, culture wars, drug wars, wars on poverty(can’t win ’em all). Now there is going to be a war on conspicuous consumption, except among those wealthy enough to ignore it. The income gap grows apace as wealth has relentlessly been gerrymandered upwards for decades. No sooner is the USSR “defeated” than Nato is marched up to Russia’s border to meet the threat head on.
    This is not incompetence.
    It is the most corrupt, most empowered, most narcissistic – with apparent good reason, not too many Susan Boyle’s up top – most successful oligarchy our species has manifested, now operating on a global scale pursuant to very discrete restricted interests, against the manifest interests of the greatest portion of Creation.
    That AIPAC can operate as it does, heretofore with virtual immunity and narrow public awareness is testimony to the efficacy of Power.
    jon posits that someone “overplayed” their hand, Capitol hill bribery attempts so rife as to be non-reportable(don’t those bums swear some kind of oath to uphold anything?) while robt willmann’s postscript reminds us it “sounds like an attorney general squashing a criminal investigation for purely political reasons, namely, for help in “defending” to the public a “warrantless wiretap program”.
    i.e, covering up one crime to sell another – who knows how many illegal intercepts. Or do we know, anybody?
    And all this discrepancy over reported timing details – just the kind bullshit lawyers throw up then seize on to muddy entirely clear waters. Clear, that is, when the light hits it just right. Blink and you miss it, though, all you’re left with is hearsay.
    DaveGood re “Israel is not mentioned, everyone’s eyeing Turkey.”
    Coincidentally enough Debkafile takes a shot at Turkey today, whilst keeping up the conflict-with-Obama drumbeat:

  20. Jackie Shaw says:

    I recall after the ’06 elections and the Dem’s taking over, there was a tussle between Pelosi and Harmann. Harmann wanted “intel” and Pelosi was against that. Sorry, can’t remember the reason now. Probably this is it.
    Reyes got the position.

  21. zot23 says:

    Col Lang,
    Thank you for posting this, it adds considerable depth of understanding to the situation.

  22. Curious says:

    Ok. now it’s an all out media war. Things are shooting from all direction.
    1.The Harman/aipac case. I think this shake the House. Pelosi made statment. Steny is worried. Harman is fending herself in the public. Harman doesn’t look good.
    2. The torture case. Anything related to this so far is ex-Bush administration. Obama better makes sure CIA is on his side. This is when charisma and leadership count. Brewing harder, but looks more than manageable.
    3. Mini manufactured storm. (China is getting us. This is standard neocon song. Murdoch/Wallstreet reinforce that fact. What is with neocon and trying to pick a fight with chinese? It happens since wen ho lee/nuke-rumsfeld/spy plane, and now bogus story about Tibet, chinese hacker in electric grid, F-35 etc)
    4. AP is trying to build “Iran hostage” narrative. (with regard to Saberi)
    incidentally, the press now feel very secure and know they are not being spied on. Hence the leak-palooza. Could never happen under Bush administration.

  23. MRW. says:

    How many kids are languishing in jail in California with their Three Strikes You’re Out law for smoking joints when this California Congresswoman is getting a pass for something called “a completed crime?”

  24. Rider says:

    What those two newspapers do not tell you is that in federal conspiracy law, the agreement to commit an offense is the crime, and it does not matter if the offense that is the object of the conspiracy ever happens.
    As the case of Mr. Blagojevich also reminded us recently.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! …”
    You guys seem to forget that the higher echelons of the US Democratic Party and the Israeli Labour Party were for decades quite chummy with each other.
    What else would you expect after years of this sort of mutual love and admiration?

  26. optimax says:

    Charles I, MSM reported that Blackwater were hired by wealthy indidviduals in New Orleans to protect their mansions, and, though some were, Blackwater also had a contract with the Federal Government to police the streets and were deputized. From Counter Punch:
    Contrast with the cop wrestling a gun away from a grandmother who stayed in her house after Katrina and could have used the protection. It’s on youtube.
    It didn’t take this long to rebuild SF after the 1906 earthquake. Katrina is a repeating and stark metaphor for the looting of this country that is continueing with Geithner, Summers, Bernake and the rest on the long list. Every disaster an opportunity– isn’t that the theme of A New American Century?

  27. charlottemom says:

    Col Lang — Thanks. Your point on Harmon’s truthiness is well taken.
    Charles 1 and Babak – agreed

  28. Cold War Zoomie says:

    I won’t go into the gory details, but I see no reason why there cannot be both FBI and NSA transcripts. That doesn’t seem like a discrepancy to me. Actually, I think it helps narrow down who these people may be if both agencies are truly involved.
    Here’s a little twist that recently popped into my little brain…
    At my first duty station overseas, we received periodic briefings of how to handle intercepted communications that had swept up a US citizen. If my memory serves me right, we were supposed to ignore the US side of the conversation although I think the entire conversation was documented. In other words, the US side of the conversation was off-limits as far as the US government was concerned.
    But that was back before dual citizenship was recognized in the USA. What happens today if an NSA intercept sweeps up a dual citizen while they are overseas, especially if they are working on behalf of a foreign government? Do the same oversight rules from the late 1980s still apply?

  29. SAC Brat says:

    Don’t worry too much about the JSF files. It is very hard to build an airplane that is not a static display and there is no assurance that the info doesn’t contain engineering errors. Everyone has been trying to build engines and airplanes for years and even the US has built a lot of turkeys.
    It’s likely the JSF files were a stalking horse. It depends on which side of the Americans-are-smart/Americans-are-stupid coin lands face up. The magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology will be your best source of info if you read it right. It has a good signal to noise ratio.

  30. optimax says:

    Here’s a list of countries that recognize dual citizenship. What surprises me is Russia not only recognises dual citizenship but does not recognize a Russian emigrants citizenship to another country, in other words, they will always consider you a Russian citizen.

  31. curious says:

    well, if somebody say what phone harman is using, I am sure somebody would be able to supply a method to listen in to her line pronto. I not like it’s a big secret or anything. All phone is tapped.

  32. Charles I says:

    optimax, thanks for the link, I’m way behind on my surfing, haven’t had time for Counterpunch for a long while.
    I didn’t post this before for lack of a cite.
    About two months ago I heard a documentary by an American reporter on the CBC Radio foreign affairs show Dispatches about white on black violence by hoc civilian local neighbourhood watch formations in the days after Katrina. It reported several alleged white on black murders and numerous other shootings. Alleged white locals were recorded in semi-candid admissions as having “taken care of” transient blacks with obvious relish. Black men related events ranging from they and family being refused passage through through sometimes barricaded public streets, being run off off at gun point – before or after assault – to being shot.
    Now I’ll go mad trying to recall the Blackwater cite that I don’t now, certain I haven’t conflated the above with it.

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