WASHINGTON: Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on a National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap telling “a suspected Israeli agent” that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, according to a report released Sunday night in Congressional Quarterly (CQ).
In exchange for Harman’s help, CQ sources say, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi, then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.
Cautious 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…”
Spokespersons for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment to CQ.
The case is a spin-off of a probe that has already led to charges under the Espionage Act against the two AIPAC lobbyists, whose case is still pending and scheduled to go to court in June, and to a 12-and-a-half-year prison sentence for former Defense Intelligence Agency official Lawrence A. Franklin.Franklin pleaded guilty a year ago to three felony counts involving improper disclosure and handling of classified information about the Middle East and terrorism to the two lobbyists, who in turn are accused of passing it on to a journalist and Israel. The two lobbyists, who have denied any wrongdoing but were dismissed by AIPAC in April 2005, were indicted on felony counts of conspiring with government officials to receive classified information they were not authorized to have access to and providing national defense information to people not entitled to receive it.
“It’s the deepest kind of corruption, which was years in the making,” said a recently retired longtime national security official who was closely involved in the AIPAC investigation.