This story best represents the intersection of several seemingly disparate threads that intertwine the last American decade. It appears that an NSA wiretap ensnared Democratic Representative Jane Harman of California discussing a quid pro quo arrangement with a “suspected Israeli agent”.
There are a lot of hairy details on this one. But the gist is that an NSA wiretap recorded Harman in a conversation with a “suspected Israeli agent” in which Harman allegedly agreed to use her influence with the DOJ to get them to drop the AIPAC spy case in exchange for help lobbying then-Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi to make Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee — a position she ended up not getting.
Attaturk at FireDogLake further summarizes:
1. Congressman Jane Harman (D – CA) told a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.
2. This is known because of an NSA Wiretap.
3. The suspected Israeli agent then promised to lobby Nancy Pelosi to make Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections (she wasn’t).
4. There were some reports of this influence peddling in 2006, but it was dropped for a “lack of evidence” by Alberto R. Gonzales, who intervened to stop the investigation.
5. Gonzales intervened because he wanted Harman to defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times.
6. And she promptly went out and defended it.
The AIPAC case itself is quite interesting. AIPAC itself is a powerful lobbying group tied to Israeli interests. AIPAC holds near-immeasurable sway over the entirety of our political system. Secrecy News further summarizes:
The AIPAC case is a subject of broad interest because it is the first time that Americans who are engaged in protected First Amendment activities have been prosecuted for the unauthorized receipt and transmission of classified information, which is a relatively common transaction among national security reporters and advocacy organizations. (Secrecy News has frequently sought access to information on topics or programs that we knew to be classified, and has occasionally gained such access.)
“This is not a typical espionage case,” defense attorneys told the appeals court in an April 29 motion (pdf). “Everyone who spoke with [defendants Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman] did so voluntarily, knew that Rosen and Weissman were not government officials, and knew that they did not have security clearances. Rosen and Weissman did not receive money or material goods from foreign governments or others in exchange for information; they did not speak in code; they did not conduct their meetings in secret; they are not charged with serving as agents of a foreign government, let alone with being spies; they did not receive or pass on classified documents; they did not pay any bribes to or threaten government officials.”
Prosecutors put it differently (pdf): “This is an Espionage Act prosecution involving two defendants who conspired to and did obtain classified information from their government sources and then passed that information to a foreign government, members of the news media, and others not entitled to receive it.”
But if it was a conspiracy, the government has handled it in a peculiar way, the defense said in its April 29 motion:
“Highlighting the curious underpinnings of this prosecution, the high-level government officials with whom Rosen and Weissman regularly met and who, according to the Indictment, illegally disclosed classified NDI [national defense information], have not – with but one exception – been charged criminally. Indeed, one of the disclosing officials has since received, not charges or reprimands, but a series of promotions to one of the highest, most sensitive positions in the government.”
The “one exception” is former Pentagon official Lawrence A. Franklin, who has been sentenced to a 12 year prison term.
This finally takes us back to Franklingate (via the NYTimes):
A federal judge sentenced a former Defense Department analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, to more than 12 years in prison today after Mr. Franklin admitted passing classified military information to two pro-Israel lobbyists and an Israeli diplomat.
The sentence meted out to Mr. Franklin, 59, by Judge T. S. Ellis III in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., was at the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines. Judge Ellis said at the hearing that he believed Mr. Franklin was motivated by a desire to help the United States, not to damage it.
Mr. Franklin’s sentence, which included a fine of $10,000, was the first victory for the government in a case in which prosecutors have also indicted the two lobbyists with whom he shared classified information. The charges against Mr. Franklin and the two lobbyists are offenses under the Espionage Act, but none of the men have been accused of spying.
So let’s sum this up. A Department of Defense staffer – Larry Franklin – working in the office of noted Neocon and “stupidest fucking guy on the face of the earth”, Douglas Feith, leaks classified defense intelligence on Iran to two AIPAC representatives and an Israeli diplomat, because Franklin disagrees with the foreign policy of the United States.
The US DOJ indicts and convicts Franklin, and then indicts the AIPAC representatives. US Rep. Jane Harman is then enlisted in a quid pro quo arrangement to influence the government to drop their case against the AIPAC staffers, in exchange for a coveted slot on the Intelligence Committee. Harman never got the spot, but provided important bipartisan cover to the Bush Administration on a host of issues including wiretaps and torture. Coincidentally, the case against Harman for influence peddling was dropped, and she never got the position.
Just for the sake of argument, as a blatant I-told-you-so, reread my post “They Knew” along with these links to various timelines. I also find it interesting as to how these affairs sync up with the push for war with Iraq, the domestic spy net, the outing of Valerie Plame (and the corrupting of Iran nuclear proliferation intel), and torture. I’d hazard a guess that there is much, much more along these lines out there…
Tags: AIPAC, Alberto R. Gonzales, Department of Justice, Intelligence Committee, Iran, Islamic Republic of Iran, israel, Italy, Jane Harman, Keith Weissman, Larry Franklin, Lawrence A. Franklin, Nancy Pelosi, Natanz nuclear reactor, neocon, nuclear, Pentagon, Steven Rosen, Yellowcake