Ignore AIPAC at America’s Peril

What do Charles Freeman and Jane Harman have in common? Nothing, apart from the fact that they are both involved in the truly ugly side of the Israel lobby’s activity in the United States and, for that reason, had their stories dropped by the mainstream media in record time. Harman’s story broke on April 19 and was on life support by the 24th. Freeman’s story had slightly more legs to it only because his withdrawal from his nomination to head the National Intelligence Council on March 10 was preceded by a three-week barrage of vicious ad hominem attacks from the media and the usual suspects in Congress. After he resigned, his story was allowed to die, ending as far as the mainstream media was concerned on March 14 with a coup de grace from Republican Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, who claimed in a Washington Post op-ed that the Israel lobby had nothing to do with his opposition to Freeman’s appointment. Wolf has reportedly received $72,000 from pro-Israel PACs, more than any other Virginia congressman except Eric Cantor, something that he chose not to mention.

If one were to ask a reasonably well-informed American citizen about either Harman or Freeman, one would most likely draw a blank. This is because they have been airbrushed out of the collective political consciousness almost as effectively as the pictures of Stalin’s rivals were removed from group photos in Red Square. The mainstream media, which is where most Americans still get their news, has trivialized their stories and has no desire to grapple with issues like Israeli espionage and the establishment of a de facto Israeli loyalty test for the holders of high office. Corruption of the U.S. political system by a small country 5,000 miles away is of no interest to Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC, not to mention their newsprint counterparts.

It did not have to be so, and if there had been any spine or even a shred of conscience in the media, then all of this might have gone in another direction, leading to a serious inquiry into how a tiny foreign power has managed to create the most powerful lobby in Washington. When Freeman went down and dared to complain about his treatment, there was considerable noise in the blogosphere suggesting that the Israel lobby had finally overreached itself and would pay the price because everyone would now know just how much it interferes in American politics. That judgment proved premature, as did the suggestion by some that the victory over Freeman might prove Pyrrhic in nature, leading to future defeats. Others, including Stephen Walt, were not so sure, noting that the basis for AIPAC’s power in the media and within the government had not in any way been diminished. That has proven to be the case. A complaisant establishment media rolled over on the Harman story only weeks after Freeman.

So much for the Fourth Estate, where the only freedom of the press in evidence is the freedom to run as fast as possible from any story that is critical of Israel and its friends. The American public should wake up to the fact that the Freeman and Harman stories are serious in their implications, whether or not the media is interested. Freeman was appointed to head the National Intelligence Council, an essentially non-political position that is responsible for shaping the vitally important National Intelligence Estimates. He was supremely well qualified for the position and was esteemed for his maverick qualities, which led to the expectation that he would head a team that would challenge assumptions on existing policies in such a way as to make a repeat of the bad intelligence on Iraq unlikely. But when it was learned that Freeman had been particularly critical of Israeli settlement policies and had observed that the tie to Israel did not exactly serve the U.S.’ national interests, his appointment was heavily criticized. To be sure, the critics most often attacked Freeman by misrepresenting his views on China and links to Saudi Arabia, where he had served as ambassador, but everyone in Washington and the media knew that it was really all about Israel.

Bereft of any support from the White House, Freeman was doomed. Also doomed was any expectation that Washington might benefit from sound intelligence providing a realistic assessment of the threats facing the U.S., unadorned by the fake analysis dished out by interest groups like AIPAC. Leaders in the media could have actually enabled a debate about a sound foreign policy that actually works in our national interests, but they chose to walk away instead. If, as is likely, President Obama has learned his lesson from the Freeman affair and decides that it is better to go along with AIPAC than to resist it, business as usual will continue in Washington, with Israel’s current crop of right-wing fanatics, headed by Bibi Netanyahu, protected to the last drop of American blood and treasure.

Harman’s tale is somewhat different, but it also involves the Israel lobby as well as the considerable Israeli espionage effort directed against the United States. If the leaked accounts of Harman’s phone conversation with someone acting on behalf of Israeli intelligence are accurate, the congresswoman clearly knew her Israeli intelligence contact well and might have had similar conversations with him or her previously. She agreed to attempt to influence a reduction in the charges in the trial of accused AIPAC spies Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. In return, Harman’s contact promised to support her bid to become chairman of the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence by pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi through threats to withhold political contributions from Israeli billionaire Haim Saban if Harman was not given the position. Harman was later spoken of as a possible candidate to become director of central intelligence and, without the FBI wiretap, which became known to Pelosi, she might have obtained either position, or possibly both in succession.

Harman has denied that she did anything wrong, and she has tried to turn the tables by accusing the government of illegally recording her conversation, a red herring introduced by those trying to minimize the significance of the affair. Make no mistake, Harman was on the receiving end of an intelligence operation. Her phone conversation was recorded because she was talking to someone who was working with Israeli intelligence, which was the target of the investigation. Intelligence officers highly prize an agent of influence, which is a well-placed politician or media figure who will do one’s bidding, and they seek to obtain that cooperation by trading favors that both they and the target know are illegal. It was illegal for Harman to promise to interfere in a court case, something that her contact clearly was aware of. It was illegal for the agent of a foreign government to pressure the speaker of the House to promote Harman. Once such favors are exchanged, the intelligence officer has leverage to demand more because his new agent will cooperate rather than have the illegal details of the relationship revealed. That is how covert operations are taught at the CIA training center and every other intelligence school in the world. There should be no uncertainty about what was taking place, even if the mainstream media and Harman’s colleagues in government don’t get it. At last report, Harman is not being investigated, she has not been criticized by anyone in the government or in either party, and she just spoke at the AIPAC convention in Washington. So much for equal justice under law.

If the Freeman and Harman affairs taken together do not provide convincing proof that Israel and its advocates are no true friends to the United States, then it is difficult to imagine what else can be used to make the case. It is time to end the special relationship and treat Israel like every other country. If Israel sends its intelligence officers to America to break the law, they must be caught, exposed, and punished, just as if they were Chinese or Russian. If they spy on the U.S. and corrupt its politicians, they must pay a price. It is almost certainly too late to give justice to Chas Freeman or to give Jane Harman the punishment she so richly deserves, but it is time for the United States to send a clear signal that while it is prepared to be a good friend to Israel, it will not stand for any more interference with our politicians and government officials.

Author: Philip Giraldi

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.