Calamity Jane Harman Shoots Herself in the Foot

The exposure of the Jane Harman-AIPAC axis of treason has exploded the illusion of the Israel Lobby’s invulnerability. Here they thought they had the AIPAC espionage trial swept safely under the rug, or nearly so, what with the prosecution of two former top Lobby officials seemingly stalled indefinitely, and the Justice Department "reviewing" whether to pursue the case. Not only that, but accused Israeli spy Steve Rosen is riding high, having recently been instrumental in the downfall of Obama administration appointee Charles Freeman. Slated to take up a key post, which would have had him writing the president’s daily intelligence briefing, Freeman was lynched by a bipartisan mob of neocons and Israel-firsters, with the disgraceful (albeit not sufficiently disgraced) Rosen leading the charge.

This triumphal march hit a rather large bump in the road, however, when none other than Congressional Quarterly published a bombshell story detailing how Rep. Jane Harman – hawkish Democrat and reliable ally of the Lobby – had been caught red-handed offering to take up a request by "a suspected Israeli agent" to intercede with the Justice Department and the White House in order to get the charges against Rosen and his assistant, Keith Weissman, reduced or dropped altogether. In exchange, the agent averred, AIPAC would pressure Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman head of the House Intelligence Committee, with the threat of withholding Haim Saban‘s substantial contribution to the Democratic Party dangled over Pelosi’s head like Damocles’ sword.

Harman has been twisting herself into a pretzel in a vain attempt to push back, and in the process she humiliated herself on the public airwaves in a real trainwreck of an interview with National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel. When he asked her if she remembers that conversation with a "suspected Israeli agent" – as the original story exposing her perfidy described her interlocutor – she screeched: "We don’t know that there was a conversation"! However, a few minutes later, when Siegel inquires whether it is "realistic to think that anybody is going to release a completely unredacted transcript of that conversation," she averred: "Well, let’s find out. I mean, the person I was talking to was an American citizen" – apparently forgetting that the existence of that conversation was supposed to be in doubt.

What is Calamity Jane smoking? Or is she so rattled by being closely questioned that she can’t remember important details of her story? She may be shaken, yet Harman hasn’t lost the natural craftiness that is an integral part of any successful politician’s personal arsenal: she apparently still thinks she can slither out of what appears to be a tight spot by brazening it out. At any rate, unlike her brother-in-corruption, Rod Blagojevich, she can count on the local Democratic Party machine to back her no matter what.

She may be right not to worry. After an initial flurry of publicity, the media is largely dropping the ball on this one. Antiwar.com, Congressional Quarterly, and Philip Weiss’ indispensable blog are about the only three venues where you can regularly read detailed updates on the Harman-AIPAC spy scandal. Elsewhere, the story is dropping well below the fold.

As for Congress exerting any discipline over their corrupt colleague – forget it. The Democrats in Congress, for their part, are busy protecting their own: the House Intelligence Committee, whose chair she coveted so much that she was willing to sell her own country down the river, is launching an "investigation" – not into Harman’s shenanigans, but into whether other members of Congress have been placed under surveillance. Not that anyone in that august body has a guilty conscience, mind you.

The Republicans, long in thrall to the Israel Lobby, are keeping mum. This is the one and only scandal involving a major figure in the Democratic Party about which they have absolutely nothing to say.

And it isn’t just Congress that’s giving Jane plenty of cover: after an initial wave of shock (and celebration, at least in the comments) that the warmongering congresswoman from Venice, Calif., was going to get her due, the mildly left wing of the blogosphere has readjusted its moral compass and taken up the partisan cudgels on Jane’s behalf.

Rep. Harman, says Laura Rozen, is a victim of a conspiracy by former CIA director Porter Goss, who has it in for Jane because (1) she’s a Democrat, and those horrible Republicans are so partisan; (2) Harman opposed the use of waterboarding, and this is payback from the pro-torture Republicans; and (3) something to do with someone named "Dusty Foggo." Seen from this perspective, the Harman spy scandal becomes Jane’s martyrdom at the hands of ghouls, and what she is reported to have said in her conversation with an Israeli agent fades like so much background noise. It’s a classic ad hominem argument: Goss is a creep, he’s behind this, end of story. No comment from Rozen about Harman’s sign-off to her spookish phone pal, possibly the most incriminating comment anyone has ever made while being eavesdropped on by the Feds: "This conversation doesn’t exist"!

Unfortunately for Jane, the conversation does exist, and sooner or later the transcript – which I hear is floating around reporters’ circles – is going to come out. Then what will she say?

If I were Jane Harman, I’d be looking over my shoulder at what’s going on in my home district. According to this report,

"Jane Harman’s high-profile role in the still-unfolding wiretap scandal has liberal activists in the 36th, long frustrated by Harman’s hold on this D+12 district, wondering if they finally have an opening to defeat her in a primary. Marcy Winograd, who won 38 percent against Harman in 2006, has been urged to run again and is ‘thinking about it.’"

Winograd is a co-founder of the Progressive Democrats of America, and she is quite articulate on the question of U.S. aid to Israel, Tel Aviv’s massive violation of human rights and basic human decency in Gaza and the West Bank, and foreign policy issues generally. Thirty-eight percent in a Democratic primary in California, running against a popular and powerful incumbent member of Congress, is nothing to sniff at, and Harman may be in some real trouble. She is hoping that the other shoes – the identity of her phone pal, the transcript of her conversation, or some other new development in the case – will fail to drop, but if this really is a "conspiracy" by Republicans and others out to get the bombastic congresswoman, then one would expect that we haven’t heard the end of this, not by a long shot.

Okay, but so what? Who cares whether a member of Congress tried to sell herself to the highest bidder, in this case, an Israeli agent who was offering AIPAC’s services as if that organization were an adjunct of the Israeli government? After all, isn’t corruption what Congress is all about? Nothing abnormal about that. Why should this be a major issue?

The significance of this case goes beyond the fate of any of the individuals enmeshed in it: Harman, Rosen, and Weissman. The purpose of the AIPAC spy nest was to penetrate the U.S. government’s closely guarded deliberations on a subject dear to Tel Aviv’s heart: Iran’s alleged nuclear program. They wanted, in particular, a document that would shed light on those internal deliberations, and their accomplice, former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin – who confessed and was sentenced to 12 and a half years in a federal prison – was eager to give them all they wanted, and more. Unlike most spies, Franklin didn’t do it for money or out of sheer hubris. He was and is a committed ideologue, a neocon who put into practice the principle that there is no daylight between Israeli and American interests.

While the rest of the country was debating the merits of the Iraq war, the AIPAC spy ring was preparing for the next war, with Tehran. And the results of that campaign are bearing fruit today, as the Obama administration ratchets up the rhetoric – throwing overboard the CIA’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that says Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program years ago – while holding out the prospect of direct talks. The idea is to effect a tradeoff with the Israelis: a "peace settlement" over the status of the occupied territories in Palestine in exchange for a united front with Tel Aviv against Tehran.

Faced with what they claim is an existential threat – Iran’s alleged-but-never-proven quest for nukes – the Israelis are stepping up their activities in the U.S., both overt and covert, in an effort to drag America into a conflict with Iran. They are threatening to attack the Iranians themselves if we don’t do it, and this drama could no doubt be scheduled to reach a crescendo at a moment when the president of the United States can ill afford to alienate a significant section of his own party, which is firmly in the Lobby’s pocket.

When the Bush administration began to pull back from their effort to pull off a "transformation" of the Middle East, the Israelis went ballistic and launched a foolish attempt to covertly do an end-run around the Bushies – using methods that go under the heading of espionage, rather than lobbying. Under the illusion of its own invulnerability, the Israel Lobby has been pushing the boundaries for quite some time. The prosecution of Rosen and Weissman is an effort by professionals in law enforcement – the Justice Department, the FBI, and the CIA – to draw some boundaries. Yet the Lobby doesn’t recognize any such limits. Their chutzpah knows no bounds.

They think they can – and will – get away with it, but we’ll see. The Harman affair is pushback from those whose job it is to protect this nation’s security from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. The problem with AIPAC, from their perspective – and mine – is that it is both foreign and domestic, as the leaked conversation with Harman underscores: here was an Israeli agent promising to mobilize AIPAC just as if it were a division of the IDF – which, in fact, it is.

If Rosen and Weissman are ever brought to trial – and we have no word yet on the "review" that is supposedly taking place within the Justice Department, which is deciding whether to succumb to pressure to drop the case – the massive extent of Israel’s penetration of our security defenses will become all too apparent. Regardless of its outcome, the trial will be just the beginning of the Lobby’s problems – which is why they’re fighting so furiously, and viciously, to prevent the court in the eastern district of Virginia from ever convening.

Which is why I’m glad to see that someone in the Justice Department (where the Harman leak originated, I’m told) is fighting just as furiously and viciously to make sure that doesn’t happen – at least, not without inflicting some damage on those who are protecting and enabling a spy nest in the heart of our nation’s capital.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].