The Shamelessness of Jane Harman

She should have the decency to step down

by , April 24, 2009

Confronted with clear evidence that she tried to obstruct justice in the case of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman — two former top AIPAC officials slated to go on trial for espionage on June 2 — Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, did what politicians usually do when forced to face unpleasant facts: she brazened it out. In a response to the Congressional Quarterly piece by Jeff Stein that has proved such an entertaining embarrassment, she brayed

“These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact. I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves.”  

Notice how she doesn’t deny saying that she would “engage in any such activity,” i.e. that she would intervene with the Bush White House and the Justice Department to get the charges in the Rosen-Weissman case reduced or dropped — instead, she says she never kept her promise to the “suspected Israeli agent,” as the CQ piece described her interlocutor. What? A politician who breaks a promise? I’m shocked! — shocked! 

Seriously, though, from this one might infer that Harman is utterly shameless, but, then again, maybe not. On Wednesday night, she showed up at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s glitzy “Welcome to Washington” event, although, as Roll Call reported, “she kept a low profile. [Heard on the Hill] spotted the Congresswoman entering the theater in darkness just after the curtain went up, and then saw her slip out while performers gave their final bows.” 

As Shakespeare put it in Cymbelline:  

“Though those that are betrayed

Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor

Stands in worse case of woe.” 

Could it be that Harman does have a sense of shame — or was she just trying to avoid reporters?  

In any case, Rep. Harman is not alone in her shamelessness, not as long as there are people like David Frum around. Frum, you ‘ll recall, is the author of the “axis of evil” trope, fired from his White House speechwriting job for grandstanding — or, rather, for his wife’s grandstanding — and now embarked on a crusade to save the GOP from “extremism” — this from a man who wrote a book calling for the invasion of nearly every country in the Middle East, and advocating total surveillance of the American people by government authorities. He also wrote a deranged piece for National Review that attacked antiwar conservatives as “traitors.” This last is a bit much to take given his latest: a piece portraying Harman — and Rosen and Weissman — as “heroes,” and smearing US prosecutors as anti-Semites and worse.  

According to Frum, the thievery of vital US intelligence engaged in by Rosen and Weissman — stealing highly classified secrets related to Al Qaeda, providing documents revealing internal US government discussions, and various other sensitive items — never happened. These acts are described in the indictment, but Frum isn’t interested in the indictment, or in even knowing the details of the government’s case. All that he tells us is that “the story is almost insanely complicated” — when it actually isn’t at all complicated, unless one is trying willfully to misunderstand the charges and their basis in fact.  

Rosen and Weissman systematically milked former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin for top secret information to which he had access, and he handed over a veritable treasure trove of secrets: Franklin kept over 80 top secret documents, filched from Pentagon files, at his home, doubtless for reference in case his handlers (Rosen and Weissman) needed to answer an inquiry from their handler (Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli embassy). The spy nest met over a period of two years, always after taking elaborate security precautions: the indictment details one meeting during which the spies switched locations three times. These guys knew what they were doing was treasonous, and rightly feared they were being followed.

None of this makes it into Frum’s narrative, however. Instead, he narrowly focuses in on one detail of the case, and comes up with a truly lame “explanation” for the arrest and alleged “persecution” of all involved:

“Elements within the FBI and other U.S. agencies have been convinced for years that Israeli spy agencies have penetrated the U.S. government.  These anti-Israel elements responded with what spy types call a ‘mole hunt’ — a ferocious search for the suspected infiltrator. Again and again, the search has turned up empty. But from the point of view of a mole hunter, nothing is more damning than the absence of evidence: The inability to discover the mole only proves the mole’s vicious cunning!” 

Gee, they thought a “mole” had penetrated our national security defenses — now why do you suppose they thought that

From the point of view of a committed Israel-Firster like Frum, there can never be such a creature as an Israeli mole, and so a “mole hunt” only proves the inherent wickedness (and ill-disguised anti-Semitism) of the hunters. And of course, these mole-hunters are “anti-Israel” — never mind that their job requires them to protect US national security, no matter what country is trying to penetrate our defenses. We all have a duty to look the other way! Frum cites a supposed “lack of evidence,” and yet refuses to even so much as mention the details of the government’s case — except in one instance, which he manages to get totally wrong. Frum writes: 

“At last, in October 2005 the mole hunters found their man: a career Defense Department employee named Larry Franklin. Franklin’s offense? Brace yourself …  
  
“Franklin had learned of U.S. intelligence reports that Iranian sabotage teams were operating inside Iraqi Kurdistan. These reports were being disregarded for a reason very familiar in the Bush years: They contained uncomfortable news that higher-ups did not wish to know. 
  
“Franklin, however, thought the information important — maybe vitally important. He thought it needed to be pushed up the organization chart. Lacking the clout to move the information himself, he decided to do what frustrated officials often do: He leaked it. 
  
“Specifically, he leaked the information to two employees — American citizens both — of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in hope that they could galvanize a response from their contacts in the White House. The two, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, shared Franklin’s information with journalists, colleagues, and the Israeli embassy. For this action, all three were charged with criminal offenses.”
 

In reality, the story about Iranian “sabotage teams” in Kurdistan was completely made up — by the “mole-hunters,” i.e. the FBI’s counterespionage unit, which had been watching Franklin (as well as his handlers) ever since he showed up at a luncheon attended by Rosen, Weissman, and Naor Gilon, volunteering to commit espionage on Israel’s behalf. They tracked his movements, and listened in on his phone conversations, as he responded to requests for specific information from Rosen and Weissman. After clearly establishing their target’s criminal intent, the G-men pounced, showing up at Franklin’s Kearneysville, West Virginia, home and confronting him with his treason. Franklin admitted his crimes, and agreed to help the feds nab his accomplices in exchange for leniency.  

Toward that end, the FBI planted a story — the Kurdistan “sabotage team” story — and sent a “turned” Franklin to meet with his co-conspirators. Franklin told Rosen and Weissman that Israelis who had infiltrated Kurdistan and were engaged in “training” Kurdish militias were in mortal danger from Iranian “saboteurs,” and that furthermore this information was highly classified: he warned them not to use it. It didn’t take too long for them to leak it, bigtime, not only to the Israeli embassy and other AIPAC employees, but to the media as well.  

The point of planting this story was to clearly establish the criminal intent of the two AIPAC spies and seal the legal case against them. It’s not clear whether Frum just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or if he’s deliberately using this story to throw up a smokescreen so as to avoid mentioning the real crimes of Rosen and Weissman — in Frum’s case, I would tilt toward the latter. Whatever — the fact is that Frum is misinforming his readers on a story that is easily checked. Whether it’s sheer laziness, or the habit of deception, I leave to my readers (and Frum’s editors) to decide. 

While Frum’s response to the Harman spy scandal is all too predictable, the response from Congress has been to call for an investigation — not of Harman, but of those who uncovered her corruption! If Rep. Harman was overheard telling an Israeli agent that she’d help him get the charges dropped or reduced, in return for political favors from AIPAC — then it’s the eavesdroppers who’re at fault and must be brought to justice. It doesn’t seem to matter that the FBI went before a judge and got approval before they started listening in — nor does the fact that they weren’t listening in on Harman, specifically, but on the “suspected Israeli agent.” All the Democratic-controlled Congress is concerned with is protecting one of its own. 

I might add that the Republicans, who are usually quick to pounce on the merest hint of scandal in Democratic ranks, have said not one word about Harman’s embarrassing ties to a spy nest — not a peep. Which makes sense, because they’re just as firmly in the Lobby‘s pocket as the Democrats in Congress. Not to mention that whiff of Bush era corruption wafting into the room once we take into account the quashing of the investigation into Harman by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who saved her skin by averring “We need Jane.” Rep. Harman was the Bush administration’s biggest Democratic ally when it came to massively violating the civil liberties of Americans.  

Both parties are in this up to their necks. That’s why Obama’s Justice Department is now openly leaking the information that they’re considering dropping the charges against the AIPAC spies — with nary a protest from either side of the aisle.  

It looks like Harman, Frum, and the Lobby have won, after all — despite the mountains of evidence against Rosen and Weissman,  and the protests of hardworking patriotic law enforcement officials who are dismayed and demoralized by the blank check our Justice Department is giving Israel to spy and steal our secrets with impunity. They leaked the dirt on Harman out of desperation, in the hope that popular outrage would prevent Israel’s American spies from beating the law and slithering back to their nests. 

These decisions, of course, are never made in a vacuum: it’s all about politics, and the politic thing to do is to give in to the Lobby, and neo-Pollardites like Frum. Overseas, this will score the administration some brownie points in Israel, and perhaps soften the right-wing government’s increasingly intransigent stance against the new American president, while domestically it will placate and temporarily silence a vocal claque of critics.  

After all, what else could we expect a self-proclaimed “pragmatist” to do? 

In a better world, a member of Congress caught on tape agreeing to obstruct justice at the request of an agent of a foreign power would have stepped down as soon as the news hit the headlines. In our shameless era, however, that isn’t likely to happen. Instead, the spies will get off, Israel will continue to steal us blind, and a trial that would have shocked the American people and portrayed Israel in a far more realistic light than our news media dares will never take place.  

How’s that for change we can believe in?

However, it doesn’t have to turn out that way. It could be that the patriotic, pro-national security counter-intelligence officials who have exposed the AIPAC spy nest and their enablers in government will have their hopes vindicated — their hope that the American people will protest once they understand how and why espionage is allowed to be practiced openly in our nation’s capital, protected and defended in the very halls of Congress.  

The outlook of this shocking case doesn’t look too good at the moment, but that could change — if enough Americans are informed and angry enough to protest. The decision to drop the case, as of this writing, has yet to be made: it’s only that they’re considering dropping it. There’s just one way to lodge your protest, at this point, and that is to contact the US Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, where the case is being tried. 

Remember, there are no doubt people in that office fighting to keep this case alive — so be polite. Briefly express your disappointment upon reading news reports that the case might be dropped, and your hope that this is not the case.  

Call 703-299-3700 — and remember, be nice

Or, better yet, write a letter, send a telegram, or whatever, and address it to: 

US Attorney

Justin W. Williams United States Attorney’s Building  
2100 Jamieson Ave 
Alexandria, VA 22314

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