As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CA-36: Harman Should Probably Just Stop With The Talking

Jane Harman is not doing herself any favors with her insistent maintaining of innocence in the AIPAC/wiretapping scandal. First off, her instinct to lash out in anger, saying that she is about secret wiretaps and considering the taps an abuse of power, really comes off badly, considering that she lobbied to spike the NYT story revealing the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program. It's darn near impossible to reconcile her past statements with this new image as a civil liberties extremist.

So if I understand this correctly -- and I'm pretty sure I do -- when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was "both legal and necessary" as well as "essential to U.S. national security," and it was the "despicable" whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman's overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist [...]

Besides, if Jane Harman didn't do anything wrong -- as she claims -- then what does she have to hide? Only Terrorists and criminals would mind the Government listening in. We all know that government officials have better things to do than worry about what innocent Americans are saying. If she did nothing wrong -- if all she was doing was talking to her nice constituents and AIPAC supporters about how she could be of service -- then Bush officials obviously weren't interested in what she had to say.

Beyond that, even if there were "illegal" acts committed here, surely we should be rushing to retroactively immunize those responsible, just as Harman eagerly advocated and engineered and then voted for when it came to the telecoms who broke our laws and enabled illegal spying on American citizens. That was when she voted to gut FISA protections and massively expand the Government's power to eavesdrop on Americans with no warrants as part of the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer Surveillance State celebration known as the "FISA Amendments Act of 2008."

This goes double for Steny Hoyer, who's out there whining about wiretapping after pushing the FISA Amendments Act through the House.

Worse, Harman's appearance on NPR went completely off the rails, as she admitted key elements of the conversations unwittingly:

Robert Siegel: First, do you remember the phone call in question? Who is the other party and is that a fair description of what was discussed?

Rep. Jane Harman: We don't know if there was a phone call. These are three unnamed sources, former and present national security officials, who are allegedly selectively leaking information about a phone call or phone calls that may or may not have taken place.

RS: But are you saying that you really don't have any recollection at all of a phone conversation like this?

JH: I'm saying that, No. 1, I don't know that there was a phone conversation. If there was and it was intercepted, let's read exactly what I said to whom. We don't know who that was either.

RS: But, indeed, if what happened was, initially, your phone wasn't tapped [and that] the person you were talking with was being tapped — and if that was an investigation of a foreign agent, is it realistic to think that anybody is going to release a completely unredacted transcript of that conversation?

JH: Well, let's find out. I mean, the person I was talking to was an American citizen. I know something about the law and wiretaps. There are two ways you do it. One is you get a FISA warrant, which has to start with a foreign suspected terrorist, a non-American foreigner. If this was FISA, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that would have had to happen.

RS: But if you know that it was an American citizen —

JH: If it was Article III, FBI wiretap, that's different. But I don't know what this was. And I don't know why this was done. And I don't know who the sources are who are claiming that this happened are and I think —

RS: But you are saying that you know it was an American citizen. So that would suggest that you know that there was a —

JH: Well, I know that anyone I would have talked to about, you know, the AIPAC prosecution would have been an American citizen. I didn't talk to some foreigner about it.

RS: You never spoke to an Israeli? You never spoke to an Israeli about this.

JH: Well, I speak to Israelis from time to time. I just came back from a second trip to Israel in this calendar year. I've been to the Middle East region as a member of Congress 22 times and was in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Israel and Turkey just a week ago.

I'm writing this blind, because my head just exploded.

Lucas O'Connor has a bit more. Let's be clear - the AIPAC spying case has always been dodgy, the principals may not even be tried, and the release of this story now is a bit curious. But Harman's hypocrisy on this issue is clear, her efforts at spin control insulting to anyone's intelligence, and her efforts to spike the warrantless wiretapping story during the 2004 Bush/Kerry election unconscionable.

Incidentally, Nancy Pelosi came out today saying she had been briefed by the Justice Department about the Harman wiretap several years ago, but she "wasn’t at liberty at the time of the briefing to let Ms. Harman know." She also said that the disclosure had no bearing on Harman losing out on the top position at the House Intelligence Commitee.

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