Sometimes I’m really jealous of Phil Weiss. Though we have a different take on lots of issues related to Jewish identity we often comment on the same or similar aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict. And often he gets there first, which is what a good journalist does.
This happened yesterday when he caught the amazing Congressional Quarterly expose of Rep. Jane Harman captured red-handed on an NSA wiretap colluding with an Israeli “agent” to get a reprieve for alleged Aipac spies, Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen. The quid pro quo for Harman was the agent would arrange for powerful people to put in a good word for her with Nancy Pelosi in Harman’s campaign to become chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Though Harman vehemently denies the charges, it’s hard to argue with the supporting circumstantial evidence. In 2006, I reported that Haim Saban, a wealthy pro-Israel Democratic donor did precisely what Harman had requested from the Israeli agent. According to the N.Y. Times, he threatened to withdraw all financial support for Pelosi unless she named Harman chair of the committee. No wonder Pelosi didn’t take kindly to being swatted around.
She was so ticked off by the blitz that it backfired and she put Harman in a deep freeze. The latter never got the gold prize she’d sought. In addition, the NSA had informed Pelosi of the wiretap and its contents so the House Speaker probably already knew about Harman’s collusion; and it couldn’t have made her happy to say the least.
When the NSA presented the evidence to Justice there was a debate about whether to pursue an investigation against Harman. Ultimately, Alberto Gonzales decided not to do so. But the reason why is tantalizing. The N.Y. Times NSA warrantless wiretapping story was about the break and the Bushites needed every hand on deck. Gonzales knew (how?) that Harman could be expected to support the Administration position and indeed she did so. And Helena Cobban notes it was the very same NSA which she defended so vociferously which captured her perfidy. Ah, delicious irony!
So the question becomes: how did Gonzales know this? Did he or anyone associated with the administration contact Harman directly and ask for the NSA support as a quid pro quo for dropping the investigation?
The CQ story reveals another bombshell that will not make Bill Keller and N.Y. Times senior editors look very good. When the Times originally planned to publish the NSA wiretap story just before the 2004 election, guess which senior House Democrat lobbied them not to publish? You guessed it. So we must ask why in God’s name did the Time sit on this story for two entire years on the word of a compromised Aipac stooge like Harman? Bill Keller claims in today’s Times that she wasn’t a factor in his decision to delay publication:
“She did not speak to me,” Mr. Keller said, “and I don’t remember her being a significant factor in my decision.”
Yet the fact that he did exactly as she suggested might lead one to believe otherwise.
The ironies and juiciness of this story are beyond measure. Though the NSA is claiming the wiretap which produced this material was authorized and not warrantless (can we believe anything they tell us anyway?), isn’t it ironic that the Patriot Act may’ve made a victim of a powerful member of the House intelligence establishment? I thought the NSA’s mission was to go after Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorists. Though Harman apparently wasn’t a target of the NSA investigation (apparently the Israeli agent was), isn’t it also ironic that an intelligence maven would get caught like this with her panties down. Shouldn’t someone like Harman have known better than to consort with Israeli agents of influence?
I haven’t heard any word on the identity of the Israeli “agent” who colluded with Harman. But I have one possible nominee. After Weissman and Rosen were arrested, an Israeli embassy official, Naor Gilon, beat a hasty retreat from these shores. It quickly became clear that Gilon was the person to whom Rosen and Weissman intended to give Larry Franklin’s purloined top secret documents. So could Gilon be the alleged agent? And isn’t it possible that NSA wiretapping of Gilon may’ve been what led the government to the Weissman/Rosen/Franklin spy nest?
Avigdor Lieberman–irony of ironies–has just named the very same Gilon as his number two at the foreign ministry. In Israel, if you successfully spy on the U.S. you’re rewarded with plum assignments and cabinet jobs. I’m fairly certain that this is also Lieberman’s way of tweaking Obama, saying “you think you’re going to isolate me? I’ll show you. I’ll make my right hand man someone who has made a fool out of your government.” It’s twisted, but knowing how Yvet thinks–entirely possible.
Ron Kampeas and others speculate, based on the original Time Magazine report on this story back in 2006, that Haim Saban may’ve been both the individual who lobbied Pelosi on Harman’s behalf AND that the suspected Israeli agent whom the NSA was wiretapping. Given that Saban is a U.S. citizen, I’m not sure why the NSA would be wiretapping him. Wouldn’t this be something the FBI should be doing since they’re the domestic intelligence agency? Unless Saban is being investigated for his collusion with Israeli agents to influence U.S. policy or steal government documents, etc.
Returning to Harman, let’s not forget that she is one the greatest beneficiaries of the largess of Aipac’s donor community and received more funding than almost any other House member from pro-Israel PACs. She is Aipac’s go-to gal on the Hill. A veritable pro-Israel martinet.
How does all this effect the Rosen Weissman trial, which was thought by many to have been on its last legs given the judge’s tough anti-government rulings? Perhaps it will give the judge pause. One can only hope. Those of us who know Aipac and what it’s capable of, understand that Rosen and Weissman were likely gaming the system in Israel’s favor. This is true of Aipac’s impact on almost everything it does.
M.J. Rosenberg speculates on the motivation for leaking this story now. He says that it may relate to the new Israeli rightist government and provide Obama with extra ammunition in his battle against it and the Israel lobby’s future rearguard attempts to derail U.S. Mideast peace efforts. I’m not sure, but anything’s possible.