Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CIA, Torture, and Jane Harman.....Gasoline, Meet Fire

It's been a hard week for your average-Joe CIA operative.

First, the Obama administration released hundreds of pages of Bush-era legal memos meant to justify "enhanced interrogation techniques" (aka "torture").

The memos described in graphic, horrifying detail techniques authorized by the Bush Justice Department - and employed by the CIA - to break down terror suspects. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was subjected to waterboarding 183 times in a single month.

Then, of course, came the fallout. Jay Bybee, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bush, whose name appears as the author of an August 1, 2002 memo justifying and authorizing clear acts of torture by the CIA - and who currently sits on the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - is now the target for possible impeachment.

Lastly, the Obama administration, after some initial missteps, opened the possibility of prosecution for Bush-era lawyers who authorized brutal interrogation of terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation.

Your average-Joe CIA operative is not happy.

But suddenly, on the heels of what has been a very bad week for the CIA, comes this breaking story from Congressional Quarterly:

Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman's help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.........

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."

Fire, meet gasoline.

Essentially, what you have here is an allegation of bribery. And it's not a new allegation, either. The story first appeared in 2006 but went away, seemingly for lack of any hard evidence.

What is new - and why this story is suddenly so hot - is that there are now two unidentified "security officials" quoted in the CQ article claiming Harman was accidentally caught red-handed on tape by an NSA wiretap operation. According to the unidentified sources, Justice Department lawyers were prepared to open a case on Harman when then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales short-circuited the investigation, saying he "needed Jane" to publicly support the administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

Make no mistake, if the allegations can be supported by the evidence, then an investigation should be opened up tomorrow and our Congresswoman prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But I gotta ask........why is this story coming out now? Why sit on this bombshell for three months after Obama takes office, well after the danger of retribution from Bush-era appointees passed?

Evidently, I'm not the only one wondering:

Who are the sources?  "two former senior national security officials". The romantic interpretation is that these are two line agents who just can't enjoy retirement until their "last cold case" is solved. But like many issues with major political overtones, the reality may involve political appointees newly unemployed...


The CIA is under tremendous heat right now for torture.  The NSA, FBI and CIA are also under the gun because of the wiretapping issues........ Stein (the CQ reporter who broke the story) said in an online chat that the timing of the article release was a coincidence.  I would comment that Stein has an impetus to look like he was not played.


The CQ article does several things that would not have been permitted at a bigger newspaper.  For example, Stein sets up the appearance of a quid pro quo of delivery of a chairmanship, but the wiretapping is vaguely placed a full year before Dems took control of congress- certainly not a solid trade for committing an allegedly illegal act.

So let's review, shall we?

1) The CIA is under intense public scrutiny and pressure after the FOIA release of graphic and disturbing "torture" memos.

2) The current administration has unequivocally stated that prosecution for illegal torture is an option.

3)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly advocates the need for criminal prosecutions, and publicly states immunity should be "off the table". 

4) Three years after the event, it's just now been revealed that the NSA "accidentally" caught Harman allegedly accepting a bribe on one of its wiretaps, a wire tap that was supposedly out of it's jurisdiction.

5) Today, the top news stories in the MSM are no longer about the CIA and torture, but about Harman and a three year-old bribery allegation.

Putting this all together, I see a story that's far more disturbing than a single congresswoman allegedly caught in a quid pro quo scheme.

(Excuse me a moment while I put my tinfoil hat on.)

What I see is the CIA firing a warning shot across the bow of the Democratic Congressional Leadership and the Obama administration.

How many other Congressmembers and administration officials has the CIA "accidentally" wiretapped under FISA? How many nuggets of scandal are the CIA carefully husbanding in the bowels of Langley, waiting for just the right moment to unleash for maximum impact and distraction?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(Tinfoil hat off.......for now.)

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