“This conversation doesn’t exist.”  Those were the last words spoken by U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) as she concluded her 2005 chat with “a suspected Israeli agent,” as Jeff Stein of Congressional Quarterly put it, during the course of which she agreed to sell her country down the river in exchange for 30 pieces of silver and a coveted appointment as head of the House Intelligence Committee.  The conversation was overheard and recorded in the course of an FBI investigation into the AIPAC spy case, in which Steve Rosen, a former top official of Israel’s powerful American lobby, and Keith Weissman, the lobby’s Iran specialist, are accused of espionage.

The Israeli agent wanted Harman to intervene with the Department of Justice to grant leniency to Rosen and Weissman.  According to Stein, Harman told the agent that she’d have better luck with a certain individual on the White House staff.

The silver was to be provided by Haim Saban, he of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fortune who has become the single largest donor to the Democratic Party in the last few years.  He is famous—or infamous, depending on your point of view—for brazenly offering a cool million to the Young Democrats of America if they would pledge their two superdelegates to vote for Hillary Clinton.  (Talk about “pay for play”!)  Saban tried these tactics with Nancy Pelosi, calling her up to tell her he wouldn’t give another penny to the Democrats until and unless she promoted Harman from ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee to full chair.  Reportedly, Pelosi was not pleased, but that may not explain Harman’s failure to get the job.

Intelligence officials fighting in the trenches to protect America’s national security were miffed at then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for quashing an investigation into Harman’s activities: “We need Jane,” Gonzales supposedly said.  Next to Joe Lieberman, the ambitious Southern California congresswoman was one of the Bush administration’s most reliable allies on foreign policy and civil-liberties issues.  Whether there was a quid pro quo involved remains to be seen, but the G-men and Justice Department officials who were on the Rosen-Weissman-AIPAC case weren’t about to let Harman get away scot-free.  They leaked to Pelosi and other key congressional leaders the fact that Harman was on the Israelis’ hook, and a material witness if not a suspect in an ongoing investigation.  This would normally be the procedure—if anyone in Congress is under investigation, the leaders of both parties are immediately briefed, so the subject won’t be given access to classified information.  But Gonzales had quashed that, too—or thought he did.  The FBI’s end run around Gonzales no doubt explains why Harman, who was the next logical choice to chair the intelligence committee, and was also in the running to head up the CIA, was twice an also-ran.

It is hard to decide what is most reprehensible about this affair: Harman’s shamelessness in trying to brazen it out, the way in which Harman’s treason has been studiously ignored by the leaders of both parties, David Frum’s article in The Week claiming Harman is a heroine and the leakers are the villains, Democratic bloggers claiming it’s all a Republican plot—or maybe it’s just the stark fact that an ambitious politician in search of high office and honors feels she must make a deal with a known Israeli agent in order to advance her career.

Potentially the most interesting aspect of this incident is what Harman knew about her interlocutor.  You don’t just call people like Representative Harman out of the blue and propose that they sell themselves to a foreign power.  The Israelis had some notion that she would be receptive to the idea, and perhaps this was based on past experience: Once you’re on the hook, there’s no getting off.  Once you’ve deposited those 30 pieces of silver into your bank account, you’re part of their network, and the threat of blackmail is a whip in their hands.  What the FBI wanted to know was how far down that path Harman had gone, but they were stopped in their tracks by the Bush administration.  Now the cat is out of the bag, and Harman is screaming bloody murder.

She is demanding that the transcripts of her treason be released, knowing full well the Department of Justice cannot and will not do any such thing, given that they are engaged in an ongoing investigation.  This may be the purest hubris on her part, however, akin to George W. Bush’s infamous “Bring it on!” remarks in regard to the Iraq insurgency.  Reportedly, copies of the transcript are being circulated among journalists, and if one should fall into the hands of some enterprising blogger, Harman’s goose is way overcooked.  “This conversation doesn’t exist,” indeed!

Harman is yowling that her civil liberties have been violated, and she is raising the alarm that other members of Congress may have been under surveillance as well—this from a vocal supporter of the Bush administration’s warrant-free wiretapping, who personally intervened in order to get the New York Times to squelch its story on the covert (and illegal) program.  The true irony here is that the FBI did have a warrant from a FISA court judge, before whom they had to show probable cause.  And Harman wasn’t their target; the Israeli agent was.

The identity of this agent is a subject of much speculation.  In her trainwreck of an interview with Robert Spiegel of National Public Radio, Harman at first claimed that “We don’t even know that there was a conversation,” and then, forgetting her denial, she averred,

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.


[Spiegel:] But if you know that it was an American citizen—

[Harman:] 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—

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

[Harman:] 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.

[Spiegel:] You never spoke to an Israeli? You never spoke to an Israeli about this.


“Well, I speak to Israelis from time to time,” said Harman—undoubtedly one of the few instances during the course of that entire interview when she was telling the truth.  Yet the idea that she wouldn’t speak to an Israeli—“some foreigner”—about this matter because of some lofty principle is absurd.  She was already trading away America’s security for a plum political position and Haim Saban’s millions; was she really too high-minded to effect this exchange with “some foreigner”?

The identity of Mr. (or Mrs. or Miss) “X” is key to this whole affair, because Harman is almost certainly lying, not only about her lack of recall but about her newfound xenophobia, because the “suspected Israeli agent” was no doubt an Israeli national—or perhaps one of those fancy dual citizens, of which there are many of the Israeli-American variety.  In any case, the certainty that it was an Israeli lies in the fact that the charge would make no sense—and bring no opprobrium—if “X” is an American citizen, albeit one whose loyalties are dubious.  The only way the leakers could identify “X” as an agent with such certitude would be if he or she is an Israeli whom they know to be an agent.

It’s outrageous that, as of this writing, Harman is still sitting in Congress, unindicted and unashamed.  She should resign, forthwith, and of course she’d rather die than do that—and her party, along with the Obama administration’s Amen Corner in the media, will protect her.

Rosen and Weissman may very well get away with their treason: The latest news is that the Department of Justice is considering dropping the case.  Since 2004 the defense has been battling, with much success, to “graymail” government prosecutors by demanding the introduction of highly classified information and sending subpoenas to top-drawer witnesses, such as Condoleezza Rice and Stephen J. Hadley.  A very amenable judge, T.S. Ellis of the eastern district of Virginia, has granted their every wish.  The government must now compromise its security by allowing a vast amount of top-secret material to get out in public court, or it must compromise our security by allowing Israel’s covert-action rampage through the United States to continue with impunity.

In the Harman affair, we’ve had a glimpse into the dark places where Israel’s “lobbying” strays into espionage—and there’s a lot more down that particular rabbit hole.  That we’ll ever know much about it—never mind bring the bad guys to justice—seems highly unlikely.  Yet the mere possibility, posed by the Harman affair and the AIPAC spy scandal itself, that they might have to pay for their crimes is enough to scare the living daylights out of the Israel Lobby.  That’s progress.