Rep. Jane Harman, one of the leading Democrats on intelligence issues, is in a bit of hot water over a report that she promised to intervene for two AIPAC officials accused of spying for Israel. The news was first reported in Congressional Quarterly, and I heard reporter Jeff Stein talk about it yesterday on KPCC’s Patt Morrison program.
The story seems to have legs, particularly because there is an NSA transcript of Harman’s conversation in question. Here’s the follow-up from The New York Times:
The official with access to the transcripts said someone seeking help for the employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group, was recorded asking Ms. Harman, a longtime supporter of its efforts, to intervene with the Justice Department. She responded, the official recounted, by saying she would have more influence with a White House official she did not identify.
In return, the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor — the media mogul Haim Saban — would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was expected to become House speaker after the 2006 election, if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.
Ms. Harman denied Monday having ever spoken to anyone in the Justice Department about Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two former analysts for Aipac. Her office issued a statement saying, “Congresswoman Harman has never contacted the Justice Department about its prosecution of present or former Aipac employees.”
The statement did not, however, address whether Ms. Harman had contacted anyone at the White House or had participated in phone calls in which she was asked to intervene in exchange for help in being named chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee.
David Szady, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s former top counterintelligence official who ran the investigation of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, said in an interview Monday that he was confident Ms. Harman had never intervened. “In all my dealings with her, she was always professional and never tried to intervene or get in the way of any investigation,” Mr. Szady said.
The officials who were familiar with the transcripts, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue involved intelligence matters, also said they knew of no evidence that Ms. Harman had intervened in the case.
In case you were wondering, Harman, who has been my congressional rep since I moved to the South Bay, is Jewish. But this story seems to have much more to do with personal politics than Israel’s best-interest.