Who deserves award for the most stupid behavior in Jane Harman fracas?

We still don’t know a great deal about the Jane Harman affair, in which she allegedly agreed to try to intercede in the Justice Department’s investigation of two former AIPAC employees. But I believe we now have incontrovertible proof of the utter stupidity exhibited by some of the main players. Here are my current nominees for the top prize for ill-advised, self-destructive and/or witless behavior. Others are welcome:

1 ) Jane Harman: She is reputed to have spoken to a so-called “Israeli agent” on the telephone. At this juncture, it is not clear precisely when that conversation took place, but it apparently happened sometime in 2005. At the time, she was part of a tiny group of insiders who knew the National Security Agency was wire-tapping phones. She must have known, like many others, that an FBI investigation against AIPAC had been going on since 2002 and was still underway. So why in the world would she promise to try to influence the AIPAC case in a phone conversation with an Israeli that could have been tapped and taped easily by one of several federal agencies? Why didn’t the alarm bells go off as soon as the topic came up? What made her conclude that this wouldn’t come back to haunt her?

2) The Israeli “agent” who made the phone call. The same questions apply to him. Why in the world would he have a conversation on a telephone that, if disclosed, would indicate the Israeli government was trying to tamper with a federal espionage case?

3) Avigdor Lieberman. We don’t know the identity of the Israeli on the other end of the phone. It may well have been Naor Gillon, the former Israeli embassy staffer who has been publicly implicated in the case. If it wasn’t Gillon, it seems likely that he knew about the effort to enlist Harman’s help. And guess who the new Israeli foreign minister wants to appoint as his right-hand man, according to Ron Kampeas of the JTA? Yep. Naor Gillon.

4) The Department of Justice. Many pundits have observed that the case against former AIPACers Stephen Rosen and Keith Weissman is deeply flawed. It was filed by people who did not seem to understand that what Rosen and Weissman did –i.e., pass along “classified information” that was placed in their hands–was standard operating procedure in DC. But none of those pundits, as far as I can tell, have used the “S word”—stupid—to describe the FBI and DOJ. So I believe I am breaking new ground here.

5) “Spectre” No, I’m not referring to the agency in the James Bond novels. This is a commentator who responded to a post called “The Real Reason for the Recession,” on Business Insider. That post, by Joe Weisenthal, jokingly showed that recessions tended to coincide with sunspots. Here is “Spectre’s” apparently serious response:

The real reason for the Depression is the amount of thieving going on for many decades by the powers that be from both Partys. They are bought and paid for as I have many times.

Bombshell: Rep. Jane Harman Caught on Tape Agreeing to Lobby for Alleged AIPAC/Israel Spies?

Harman was allegedly heard saying she’d ‘waddle into’ the AIPAC case in return for support for her bid to become chair of the Intelligence Committee .

This last nomination is submitted without the benefit of much research. I found it after searching the blogosphere for about one minute. There are probably many other comments by conspiracy theorists and cabal watchers that are even more inane, and some that are insane. So I will keep this one as a placeholder.

24 thoughts on “Who deserves award for the most stupid behavior in Jane Harman fracas?

  1. Bravo on the sane reporting, Dan. The Washington Post–as Jeffrey Goldberg has pointed out–has already editorialized in favor of dropping the case, on the grounds that it’s actually a free speech issue.

  2. The government can only win its case if it can prove that the AIPAC staffers knew at the time that the information that they passed on was classified. If they heard it in a conversation and the person didn’t tell them it was classified, then there is no case without perjury.

  3. I’m admittedly not to up on this case. But I did hear Jane Harman a little while ago on NPR discussing the allegation.

    It sounds like she had no idea she was under any kind of investigation until she saw the article.

    I guess the next step is the FBI needs to make those transcripts of tapped phonecalls public–or at least hand them over to Jane Harman–so she can rebut what she’s been accused of?

  4. Peter–I may be wrong, but if you are investigated and face possible prosecution, isn’t law enforcement supposed to tell you before they leak it to the press?

    BTW– her argument is that the eaves-dropping homeland security law was supposed to be aimed at suspected terrorists. So no, I’m not seeing the irony.

    I hope this doesn’t all translate into our tax dollars funding some political feud between Washington Hatfields and McCoys.

  5. Seems to me that the descriptions of the first and second nominees don’t necessarily demonstrate stupidity. Dan, you’re right that these two would have been mentally deficient had they done what the NSA says they did. That is why I could just as easily believe that none of this, or a small part of this, actually happened.

  6. I thing the biggest sin was in the leeking. As Phil Weiss noted, there is a “war” going on for who controls the state department and intelligence community, and my sense is that the “realist” intelligence camp (different in tone than the academic “realists”) is actively fighting with the residue of former neo-conservative influence.

    I DON’T hold that “realist” intelligence camp to be more scrupulous than the neo-conservative camp (which never achieved any prominence in the CIA and only moderately in the state department).

    I think it is nefarious, a dirty trick, now with strange bedfellows, but predictable ones for those that put all of their weight of reputation on an all-in confrontation with a passing neo-conservative faction.

  7. I also wish you would comment on Durban 2, and the Ahmenidijad speech.

    In left blogs that I visit, the themes of the speech are embraced by many, rather than identified for a re-articulation of neo-fascist conspiracy theory (“World Zionism” accompanied by former statements of denial of the holocaust, denial of significance of the holocaust and the phenomena of the holocaust and aftermath as an intrusion into Islamic Waqf.)

  8. Richard, I bet your speculation about a fight between the State department and the Intelligence community is close to the truth if not 100% accurate.

    If true, isn’t it one of those status quo things that the public voted against when electing Obama?

    Given the economic and ecological state of the world, I can’t imagine anyone is going to take kindly to this petty in-fighting.

    I always found it disgusting….now more so.

    The Intelligence community already lost its credibility due to CIA-FBI squabbles leading up to 9/11.

    I hope President Obama takes a stick to all of their sorry butts.

    An interesting (to me) but unrelated side note: I listen to streaming music from a Latin online station and they have CIA recruitment ads.

    I have never heard this before and maybe am just becoming aware of something that is old news. Anybody else come across that?

  9. Suzanne

    Peter–I may be wrong, but if you are investigated and face possible prosecution, isn’t law enforcement supposed to tell you before they leak it to the press?

    Frankly, I don’t know the answer to this question. You think there is a law like that? Maybe…
    The irony is that Jane Harman got bit in the ass by a benign version of what she was advocating for other people – namely, what looks like a court-approved (hence “benign”) wiretap, as opposed to President-authorized, unconstitutional one that she cheered (and it looks like that the her investigation was dropped by Gonzales precisely because of her supports for the warrantless program.)

  10. Sure there is humor in that irony. But who would have thought that the left would be so gleeful to take advantage of illegal acquired and illegally publicized evidence.

  11. Richard, I am not sure it was illegally acquired – it looks like it was actually court-authorized, wasn’t it? About “illegally publicized” I am not sure what you mean – for sure the journalist broke no law in publicizing it. Maybe whoever leaked it….
    But, regardless of the legal questions, the glee is only too human, I guess. And in my case at least, there is behind it more hope that the public will take civil liberties a bit more seriously, than just a wish to see Rep. Harman humiliated.

  12. I heard that it wasn’t court-authorized, and it as certainly illegally leaked.

    The big question is what is the motivation behind the leak. Most leaks are to get somebody for some reason. (Some are genuine righteous whistle-blowing.)

    The glee is unholy.

    It demeans dissent to approach it gleefully, as if you weren’t confident enough of your understanding of how things work that you need to see someone suffer arbitrarily to prove “I told you so”.

  13. I heard that it wasn’t court-authorized, and it as certainly illegally leaked.

    “I heard”? Please, provide a source. Otherwise you’re just wasting breath and good-will. The wiretap was part of an intelligence operation aimed at the “Israeli agent” and thus almost certainly authorized.
    I am still not sure what “illegally leaked” means.

    It demeans dissent to approach it gleefully, as if you weren’t confident enough of your understanding of how things work that you need to see someone suffer arbitrarily to prove “I told you so”.

    Whatever. Somehow I don’t feel bad for not living up to your lofty standards of holiness. And it’s not “someone” who suffers here, but the same person who was happy to inflict a much greater such suffering onto others.

  14. Sorry Richard, but the wiretap had a NSA warrant and so it was totally legitimate and NOT the type of entrapment that Harman wanted for the rest of the public to be subjected to.

    It is still too early to conclude what to make of all of this, and this may not even turn out to be what everyone is trying to make it out to be. In the next couple of weeks, things will shape into the direction which will provide a better case to comment on. BUT I would definitely like to see this go to trial and have Harman defend her case against what seems to be a textbook back-door deal to try to help the “Israeli agent”.

    PS The charge that “this type of thing happens all the time” should not derail the trial. A trial is a trial; it is meant for something and that is to try to prove the guilt of the two men accused here. There certainly seems enough evidence to have this go to a jury and we even have one man in jail for being caught. Typically, Weiss and Obermann won’t be the only ones on trial as AIPAC will be thrust into the mainstream (again but this time on espionage charges and that might make for some bad PR) and I believe that is the real reason why this thing is dragging on. They were caught, and while they protest that they weren’t doing anything wrong because “everybody else does it” does not cut it for me; everybody breaks a certain law and yet we’re meant to pretend it doesn’t happen when you catch someone redhanded?

  15. “I also wish you would comment on Durban 2, and the Ahmenidijad speech.”

    So you read the entire transcript? From this sentence, I don’t think you did but focuses on other people’s translation of it. Now in no way have I embraced Ahmadinejad, ever, but he wasn’t taken seriously as those who “walked off” did so in a pre-ordered fashion because of what they think he would have said. And you are the one who calls for dialogue (all the time too).

  16. If an active investigation into a crime, a leak to the press, especially one that seems to be motivated by character assassination, is a crime.

    AIPAC is the real reason why it has so much steam, that interested parties are intent on slapping down AIPAC, for a wide range of motivations (some good, some horrendous).

    I read the entire Ahmenijidad speech. Of course I noted his sound bites that appealed to the angry Islamic anti-Zionist world, and to the angry western anti-Zionist “dissenting” world.

    I think you are gullible as to his intent.

    I don’t call it evil. I don’t think he is seeking the annihilation of the Jews. Who knows if he thinks that Jews are condemnable as the children of pigs, or admirable as the first articulators of monotheism.

    His speech was conspiratorial in origination, a direct screed specifically against the west, and Zionism as his impression of the epitome of the worst of western intrusion onto the Islamic waqf.

    It was harsh saber-rattling, a direct slap in the face of Obama’s request to moderate saber-rattling.

    It confirmed the impression that Iran expresses NO prospect of conditionally accepting Israel, but regards it as permanent enemy along “tribal” terms, the land belongs to the Islamic “tribe” rather than the Zionist “tribe”.

    All the while conspicuously ignoring the continued norm of arrest without due process, inhuman punishments per sharia, political secret show trials, selective terrorizing of minority communities (including the Jewish one) by selective arbitrary arrests accompanied by state-sponsored rage propaganda, prohibition against any substantive dissent.

    And certainly ignoring the tens of thousands summarily murdered and disappeared during the post-revolutionary purges, and arrests of hundreds of thousands in the same period.

    The same group remains in power, moderating their behavior only because they are firmly in power.

  17. Joshua,
    Actually selective enforcement of a law is a valid legal defense if the defense can prove that something is common practice without being prosecuted.

  18. Thomas,

    This investigation is one that peeled off the Franklin case as Franklin was not alone in his guilt. His guilt can only lead to more questions to the role of Rosen and Olbermann and if they get acquitted, then that would lead to the exoneration of other cases, even Franklin himself. Secondly, the “selective enforcement of a law” could be viewed as one that had not enough evidence to prosecute, where this case obviously does.


    I wouldn’t exactly call myself “gullible” especially when it comes to the President of Iran. (Clearly you have not read my other comments saying how unhelpful this speech was and how Ahmadinejad did no favours to those on the left and those in Iran. I believe my exact final words were “If I was an Iranian I would be pissed off.” I also questioned Ahmadinejad’s authority to speak about Zionism and about racism in general as “he is not a scholar.”) What I do find is the hyena pack-style to jump on anything on what comes out of this idiot’s mouth, as I know that the senior clerics in Iran are angry at his latest antic and this will no doubt push his own Jewish community to shun him even more, even when he did not say what people make him out to say. I also stated that his wording was sloppy and this only gives more blood for the savages out there to feed on. I don’t excoriate Ahmadinejad for ignoring his own country’s poor human rights record just like I don’t expect Erdogan or Kevin Rudd or Benjamin Netanyahu to admit to their own country’s failure to apply to the universal standard of human rights. What troubles me more is the fact that no one else decided to take on the invitation and confront this and expose Iran’s human rights abuses, while other leaders pinpoint the failings of the rest of the world on racism. This could have been useful but instead it was treated as a joke and now we get miffed at Ahmadinejad.

  19. So, what do you think Ahmadinejad meant?

    I state that what he meant was racist, fascistic ideologically, certainly a slap in the face to Obama (who is assertively putting out olive branches), clearly heightening tensions and reducing the opportunity to resolve them.

  20. Joshua, I am writing the following from memory as I don’t have time to search and verify:

    As I understand it, part of the AIPAC case revolves around an untested intepretation of the spionage Act –i.e., whether it is a crime to just receive classified information. Another part involves the fact that they passed on the information. I bow to no one in my contempt for Rosen, but based on my day job and common sense and what I’ve read, I know that so -called classified info is the coin of the realm for lobbyists as well as reporters. It is shared ALL the time. Often, the government leaks it. That is why the defendants in this case wanted to call Condi Rice and other officials to the stand. That is why many free speech advocates and others think this is a dog of a case. If the DOJ wants to indict someone as a test case or a warning to others, I guess I would have less of a problem with it. But that is not what happened here. What happened here is the FBI wanted to screw AIPAC. That is not a good use of the legal system. In fact, it is stupid.

  21. What’s going on between AIPAC and the FBI?

    I’m sure it’s fascinating, whatever it is!

    I had no idea there was bad blood. What’s up?

  22. Suzanne, it’s too complicated to sum up as “bad blood.” Afraid the only way to understand is to go bsck to some of the early reportage about the case in early 2005…

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