True Washington Intrigue, Part II

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Yesterday, the Internet was all abuzz over the revelations related to an investigation into Rep. Jane Harman’s wiretapped conversation with a suspected Israeli agent about horsetrading to help indicted lobbyists for the American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Ellen wrote about the initial details here.

The juiciest part of the story — aside from the potential quid-pro-quo — is that, after being caught on an NSA wiretap, the Alberto Gonzales-led Justice Department dropped the probe in exchange for Rep. Harman’s strong support of the NSA warrentless wiretapping program. One of the fears of Justice was a reported investigation into the program by the New York Times, set to come out just before the 2004 election. The initial allegations stated that Harman worked, successfully, to block the story. Both Rep. Harman and the New York Times initially denied. According to a statement from the New York Times received by Greg Sargent, the Times now admits that Rep. Harman did try to kill the story:

Congresswoman Harman spoke to Washington Bureau Chief Phil Taubman in late October or early November, 2004, apparently at the request of General Hayden. She urged that The Times not publish the story. She did not speak to me, and I don’t remember her being a significant factor in my decision. In 2005, when we were getting ready to publish, Phil met with a group of congressional leaders familiar with the eavesdropping program, including Ms. Harman. They all argued that The Times should not publish. The Times published the story a few days later.

This is a blistering scandal. Not only did Rep. Harman actively use her position to help a foreign agent, in exchange for her own political support, she also, once compromised, used her position to block the publication of an important story solely to protect her neck. (This doesn’t even consider that the publication of this story that could have placed Sen. John Kerry — Harman and Kerry are both Democrats — into the White House.) Even worse are the motives of the Gonzales-led Justice Department, essentially blackmailing Rep. Harman after using — allegedly — a legal NSA wiretap. More to come, I’m sure.

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