Tag Archives: warrantless wiretapping

CA-36: Harman’s Magic Act

By a twist of fate, Jane Harman actually appeared at the AIPAC convention over the weekend, bringing full circle the recent controversy over her comments picked up on a wiretap offering help to get AIPAC staffers out of a Justice Department probe in exchange for help getting the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  She vowed to begin a crusade against illegal wiretapping and overreach from the surveillance state.

Harman has described the wiretap as an abuse of government power. But sources have told The Washington Post that she was not being surveilled; the tapped phone belonged to the suspected Israeli agent, who happened to talk to her.

“I will not quit on this until I am absolutely sure this can never happen to anyone else,” Harman told the AIPAC audience, which warmly applauded her. She said the incident was having “a chilling effect” on members of Congress who “care intensely about the U.S.-Israeli security relationship . . . and have every right to talk to advocacy groups.”

Later, she called herself a “warrior on behalf of our Constitution and against abuse of power”.  Which, coming from Harman, is utterly absurd, a magic act where she transforms herself from a vigorous defender of executive prerogatives on wiretapping to a civil liberties zealot who wants to take down the surveillance state.

Jane Harman is a warrior on behalf of the Constitution and against abuse of power — that’s the same Jane Harman who tried to bully The New York Times out of writing about Bush’s illegal spying program, who succeeded in pressuring them not to publish their story until after Bush was re-elected, who repeatedly proclaimed the program to be “legal and necessary” once it was revealed, who called the whistle-blowers “despicable”, who went on Meet the Press and expressed receptiveness to a criminal investigation of The New York Times for publishing the story, who led the way in supporting the Fourth-Amendment-gutting and safeguard-destroying FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and who demanded that telecoms be retroactively immunized for breaking multiple laws by allowing government spying on their customers without warrants of any kind.

That is who is a self-proclaimed “warrior on behalf of our Constitution and against abuse of power.”

As Atrios notes, Jane Harman is primarily concerned about wiretapping of People Named Jane Harman.  And her point that this represented a potential abuse of government power, which by the way is

entirely plausible, was the entire point of people like me when we decried an illegal wiretapping program that would be ripe for abuse.  You know, the one Jane Harman defended.

Worse, in the “Fact Sheet” Harman is sending around to supporters in the district, she characterizes herself as, among other things, a longtime critic of warrantless wiretapping in the most fantastical way possible:

• Harman has never supported so-called “warrantless wiretaps” on Americans.  “We must use all lawful tools to detect and disrupt the plans of our enemies; signals intelligence and the work of the NSA are vital to that mission.  But in doing so, it is also vital that we protect the American people’s constitutional rights.”  (Press release of Dec. 21, 2005 — four days after the President declassified the existence of the Terrorist Surveillance Program).  

• Harman introduced the LISTEN Act (H.R. 5371) with House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers to add resources to the Justice Department to ensure the issuance of individualized warrants under FISA.  (Press release of May 11, 2006).

• Harman, Senator Obama, and Speaker Pelosi supported amendments to FISA to expand protections to US citizens, and give limited court-reviewed immunity to telecommunications firms that prove they relied in good faith on what they believed was a valid order to produce records.  (Vote date of June 20, 2008).

She must think we’re all idiots.  That vote of June 20, 2008, the amendments to FISA to “expand protections to US citizens,” in addition to providing retroactive immunity for the telecoms for breaking the law, actually granted sweeping new powers to the federal government, including the ability to “conduct mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States, without any individualized review, and without any finding of wrongdoing.”  The fact that this lack of oversight or judicial review could lead to abuses of surveillance power has been confirmed by reports that the NSA overstepped its legal authority to wiretap by intercepting the private emails and phone calls of Americans, problems which grew “out of changes enacted by Congress last July in the law that regulates the government’s wiretapping powers.”  The fact that Barack Obama supported that bill, considering that he was massively criticized by progressives for that FISA vote, doesn’t exactly help the cause.

Harman’s record on wiretapping is well-known and her efforts to wiggle out of it are frankly laughable.  And the rest of her record, as demonstrated by Swing State Project today, shows her to be among the top 20 Democrats voting less liberal than what their districts would support.  That, more than this hypocrisy on civil liberties, is why she’ll draw a primary challenge next year, should she choose to run again.

Goss Harmin’ Harman?

Since I’ve been offering one side of the Jane Harman story as the bits of intrigue trickle out in the media, I thought I’d explore the second option – that Bush-era officials at the CIA are using the Harman story as a warning shot against further investigation of their practices with torture and wiretapping, as well as pushing back against a thorn in the CIA’s side:

But the former intelligence official familiar with the matter noted that (ex-CIA Director Porter) Goss has given only one on-the-record interview on these CIA controversies since leaving the CIA director job. In the December 2007 interview, he said that Congressional leaders, including Representatives Pelosi and Goss himself, Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), and later Rep. Harman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), had been briefed on CIA waterboarding back in 2002 and 2003. “Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” Goss told the Washington Post. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

Who was the lone lawmaker the article identified as objecting to the program?

Jane Harman.

“Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the [House intelligence] committee’s top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program,” the Post reported. “Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA’s program because of strict rules of secrecy. ‘When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath — one of secrecy,’ she said. ‘I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything.'”

There is compelling evidence that Goss approved continuing the wiretap on the Israeli agent after seeing Harman’s involvement, and in fact tried to get a wiretap up on Harman herself.  The internecine battles between Goss and Harman go back a ways, so it’s not impossible.  We learned yesterday that the wiretap in question did not come from the NSA, and so CIA may have had some direct control over it, although the proper chain of command would have been the FBI.  Why was Goss so involved in this?

Of course, none of this changes the fact that Harman did, as has been confirmed by multiple sources, approach the Washington editor of the New York Times in 2004, before the Bush-Kerry election, to try and get them to spike the warrantless wiretapping story.  Nor does it change the fact that Harman, a full-throated supporter of wiretapping, now has become a civil liberties champion when denouncing the surveillance of her.  This must be why she’s hired Lanny Davis to do spin control (and surely he can do a better job than her disastrous efforts so far).

Finally, Jon Stewart skewers this story as only he could (on the flip).

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CA-36: Jane Harman Will Have A Primary Challenge, Or She Will Leave Congress

Here’s the latest on the Jane Harman/AIPAC story that I haven’t previously discussed here.  We know that she discussed the case against two AIPAC lobbyists with a suspected Israeli double agent, possibly Haim Saban, and made at least an implicit arrangement to push for the dropping of the case against the lobbyists in exchange for help getting appointed the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  It is unclear whether this actually represents a violation of the federal bribery statute (doing a favor in exchange for something of value), but according to the story by Jeff Stein at CQ Politics, the Justice Department felt they had Harman in a “completed crime.”  Nancy Pelosi was briefed that Harman had been picked up on a federal wiretap but was barred from disclosing it to her House colleague, and this could explain why Harman was not appointed to that Committee Chair.  The reason that the DoJ failed to charge Harman was because Alberto Gonzales intervened on her behalf, because, among other things, he knew she would be helpful in the forthcoming battle over, amazingly enough, the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

A person who is familiar with Mr. Gonzales’s account of the events said that the former attorney general had acknowledged having raised with Mr. Goss the idea that Ms. Harman was playing a helpful role in dealing with The Times.

But Mr. Gonzales’s principal motive in delaying a briefing for Congressional leaders, the person said, was to keep Ms. Harman from learning of the investigation before she could be interviewed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A spokesman for Ms. Harman said the congresswoman had never been interviewed by the bureau.

There’s also the charge that then-NSA Director Michael Hayden provided talking points for a Harman discussion with NY Times Washington editor Philip Taubman BEFORE THE 2004 election, to get the paper to squash the warrantless wiretapping story.  And today, Stein advances the story by noting that a whistleblower informed then-Speaker Dennis Hastert about the Bush Administration suppression of the wiretapped Harman call (it’s a violation of standard procedure to withhold information involving national security and a member of Congress from either Democratic and Republican leaders in the House).

Needless to say, this is a tangled web of intrigue, and with more disclosures it’s likely to get worse.  This has led to speculation that Harman would either not run for another term, or face a primary challenge.  I can confirm that Marcy Winograd is likely to run if Harman does seek re-election.  Winograd, who took 38% of the vote in 2006, was not planning a run until the AIPAC/wiretap revelations.  But she is uncomfortable with Harman not being held to account, and saw no other option on the horizon.  She has a federal account and will take the pulse of the district before a formal announcement.

“I think she’s clearly in trouble and I think she knows it and is doing whatever she can to turn the tables on the situation,” Winograd said. “And now she is the spokesperson for the ACLU or the Bill of Rights Foundation.  It would be comical, if the stakes weren’t so high.” […]

One of Winograd’s first steps is going to be “taking the pulse” of the district on issues like military spending and single-payer health care, among other issues.  It’s entirely possible that Harman might bow out and try to annoint a successor.  Or that another establishment Dem might try to take advantage of her weakened position.  Which is why I wanted to get the word out as quickly as possible that there’s a really credible progressive alternative.  Winograd has already run a primary once in the district.  Activists there know who she is, and a lot of them have already worked for her in 2006.  This would not be a net-based candidacy, but it will certainly help to have it be net-supported.

In addition, the name of blogger John Amato has surfaced as a possible challenger.

(Howie) Klein said a group of bloggers met earlier this year to discuss challenging Harman in a primary, weeks before the recent revelations. He said many in the blogging community would like a fellow blogger, John Amato, to challenge Harman and that Amato is considering it.

Winograd said that she would step aside for the right candidate, and that she’s taking up the mantle at least for now.

“I don’t know who else will answer the call, if not me,” she said. “People with great name recognition and track records in public office are not going to take her on.”

I think Marcy feels the duty to run.  At the same time, she agreed that there needs to be one progressive alternative to Harman.  But my sense from people in the district is that Harman is unlikely to try another re-election campaign.  Even the above-mentioned NYT article refers to this.

While the two women do not display overt hostility, Ms. Harman seems to have never quite gotten over the slight. Colleagues say that since Ms. Pelosi, 69, thwarted her ambitions for a more prominent role on security issues, Ms. Harman, 63, has grown weary of Congress and has been eyeing a post in the Obama administration, perhaps as an ambassador.

This tracks with everything I’ve heard from locals.  She wanted the Intelligence Committee chair, and failing that she wanted an Administration job, and failing that she wants out.

There would be a whole host of elected officials who would jump in if Harman retired.  Ted Lieu, the Assemblyman in this district, could be enticed away from his Attorney General campaign.  City Councilwoman Janice Hahn would take a look.  And there would be others.  But if Harman stays in, none of these electeds would run, avoiding what would be an expensive primary.  Harman is the richest member of Congress and has no problem spending her own money to keep her seat.

Either way, there will be a contested race in CA-36 in June 2010.  And I do believe that a primary would feature only one major challenger.  The question is, who would that be?

CA-36: Harman Should Probably Just Stop With The Talking

Jane Harman is not doing herself any favors with her insistent maintaining of innocence in the AIPAC/wiretapping scandal.  First off, her instinct to lash out in anger, saying that she is about secret wiretaps and considering the taps an abuse of power, really comes off badly, considering that she lobbied to spike the NYT story revealing the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.  It’s darn near impossible to reconcile her past statements with this new image as a civil liberties extremist.

So if I understand this correctly — and I’m pretty sure I do — when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was “both legal and necessary” as well as “essential to U.S. national security,” and it was the “despicable” whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials.  But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power.  Behold Jane Harman’s overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist […]

Besides, if Jane Harman didn’t do anything wrong — as she claims — then what does she have to hide?  Only Terrorists and criminals would mind the Government listening in.  We all know that government officials have better things to do than worry about what innocent Americans are saying.  If she did nothing wrong — if all she was doing was talking to her nice constituents and AIPAC supporters about how she could be of service — then Bush officials obviously weren’t interested in what she had to say.

Beyond that, even if there were “illegal” acts committed here, surely we should be rushing to retroactively immunize those responsible, just as Harman eagerly advocated and engineered and then voted for when it came to the telecoms who broke our laws and enabled illegal spying on American citizens.  That was when she voted to gut FISA protections and massively expand the Government’s power to eavesdrop on Americans with no warrants as part of the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer Surveillance State celebration known as the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008.”

This goes double for Steny Hoyer, who’s out there whining about wiretapping after pushing the FISA Amendments Act through the House.

Worse, Harman’s appearance on NPR went completely off the rails, as she admitted key elements of the conversations unwittingly (over):

Robert Siegel: First, do you remember the phone call in question? Who is the other party and is that a fair description of what was discussed?

Rep. Jane Harman: We don’t know if there was a phone call. These are three unnamed sources, former and present national security officials, who are allegedly selectively leaking information about a phone call or phone calls that may or may not have taken place.

RS: But are you saying that you really don’t have any recollection at all of a phone conversation like this?

JH: I’m saying that, No. 1, I don’t know that there was a phone conversation. If there was and it was intercepted, let’s read exactly what I said to whom. We don’t know who that was either.

RS: But, indeed, if what happened was, initially, your phone wasn’t tapped [and that] the person you were talking with was being tapped – and if that was an investigation of a foreign agent, is it realistic to think that anybody is going to release a completely unredacted transcript of that conversation?

JH: Well, let’s find out. I mean, the person I was talking to was an American citizen. I know something about the law and wiretaps. There are two ways you do it. One is you get a FISA warrant, which has to start with a foreign suspected terrorist, a non-American foreigner. If this was FISA, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that would have had to happen.

RS: But if you know that it was an American citizen –

JH: If it was Article III, FBI wiretap, that’s different. But I don’t know what this was. And I don’t know why this was done. And I don’t know who the sources are who are claiming that this happened are and I think –

RS: But you are saying that you know it was an American citizen. So that would suggest that you know that there was a –

JH: Well, I know that anyone I would have talked to about, you know, the AIPAC prosecution would have been an American citizen. I didn’t talk to some foreigner about it.

RS: You never spoke to an Israeli? You never spoke to an Israeli about this.

JH: Well, I speak to Israelis from time to time. I just came back from a second trip to Israel in this calendar year. I’ve been to the Middle East region as a member of Congress 22 times and was in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Israel and Turkey just a week ago.

I’m writing this blind, because my head just exploded.

Lucas O’Connor has a bit more.  Let’s be clear – the AIPAC spying case has always been dodgy, the principals may not even be tried, and the release of this story now is a bit curious.  But Harman’s hypocrisy on this issue is clear, her efforts at spin control insulting to anyone’s intelligence, and her efforts to spike the warrantless wiretapping story during the 2004 Bush/Kerry election unconscionable.

Incidentally, Nancy Pelosi came out today saying she had been briefed by the Justice Department about the Harman wiretap several years ago, but she “wasn’t at liberty at the time of the briefing to let Ms. Harman know.”  She also said that the disclosure had no bearing on Harman losing out on the top position at the House Intelligence Commitee.

CA-36: Wherein Jane Harman Tries To Throw The 2004 Election

This Jane Harman/AIPAC scandal continues to grow.  It jumped from the inside the Beltway rag CQ Politics to The New York Times.

One of the leading House Democrats on intelligence matters was overheard on telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency agreeing to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for two pro-Israel lobbyists who were under investigation for espionage, current and former government officials say.

The lawmaker, Representative Jane Harman of California, became the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee after the 2002 election and had ambitions to be its chairwoman when the party gained control of the House in 2006. One official who has seen transcripts of several wiretapped calls said she appeared to agree to intercede in exchange for help in persuading party leaders to give her the powerful post.

But that’s not what advances the story today.  Harman has denied contacting DoJ abut the AIPAC case, though she left out contacting the White House, and she did not deny that the phone call existed.  Remember that a key part of the story concerned the idea that Harman was saved from prosecution on this by Alberto Gonzales, who “needed Jane” to help front for the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.  In today’s article, the Times drops this bombshell:

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement Monday that Ms. Harman called Philip Taubman, then the Washington bureau chief of The Times, in October or November of 2004. Mr. Keller said she spoke to Mr. Taubman – apparently at the request of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then the N.S.A. director – and urged that The Times not publish the article.

“She did not speak to me,” Mr. Keller said, “and I don’t remember her being a significant factor in my decision.”

Shortly before the article was published more than a year later, in December 2005, Mr. Taubman met with a group of Congressional leaders familiar with the eavesdropping program, including Ms. Harman. They all argued that The Times should not publish.

Ultimately, it’s on Bill Keller whether or not to publish, so I don’t want to give Harman too much credit here.  But as Greg Sargent notes, this is a startling turn of events.  A Democratic Congresswoman acted on behalf of a Republican President’s NSA director to spike a story about illegal activity in the executive branch before a close Presidential election.  The ramifications are enormous.

This discussion between Harman and Taubman apparently happened before the wiretapped phone call between Harman and the Israeli agent, according to the TPM Muckraker timeline.  So Gonzales knew that Harman could be counted on to support the warrantless wiretapping program, because she had years of experience doing so at that point.

This gets uglier and uglier.  Small wonder that Harman was passed over for a position in the Obama Administration.

UPDATE: It is entirely possible that the CIA and Bush-era officials directed this set of leaks in a show of force.  That of course has nothing to do with Harman’s conversation with Taubman to try and get the NYT to spike the wiretapping story, which was confirmed by Bill Keller on the record.

UPDATE II: …Harman has released a letter calling on the Attorney General to release all transcripts and investigative material related to her collected by the Justice Department in 2005 and 2006.  This is a bit of misdirection, since by all accounts these were legal wiretaps of foreign agents.  But given the revelations about continued illegal wiretapping at the NSA, I understand Harman’s strategy.

CA-36: Reads Like A Really Bad Spy Movie

I’m sitting here in Jane Harman’s Congressional district right now.  I could probably go out on the street and informally poll a dozen people about AIPAC, and I’m pretty certain nobody would know what I’m talking about.  But inside the Beltway, AIPAC is sacrosanct and Israel practically the 51st state.  So this blockbuster story is a perfect depiction of, as Attaturk says, the way Washington works.  He simplifies it so I don’t have to:

1. Congressman Jane Harman (D – CA) told a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

2. This was known because of an NSA Wiretap.

3. The suspected Israeli agent then promised to lobby Nancy Pelosi to make Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections (she wasn’t).

4. There were some reports of this influence peddling in 2006, but it was dropped for a “lack of evidence” by Alberto R. Gonzales, who intervened to stop the investigation.

5. Gonzales intervened because he wanted Harman to defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times.

6. And she promptly went out and defended it.

This looks just terrible for Jane Harman.  There’s a trail of reporting on this going back to 2006, but the new material concerns Abu Gonzales stepping in to squash the investigation so Harman could parrot the Bush Administration line on warrantless wiretapping.  And there’s an even larger trail of reporting on Harman’s fronting for Bush.  The point is that the pieces all fit together.

Indeed, as I’ve noted many times, Jane Harman, in the wake of the NSA scandal, became probably the most crucial defender of the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program, using her status as “the ranking Democratic on the House intelligence committee” to repeatedly praise the NSA program as “essential to U.S. national security” and “both necessary and legal.”  She even went on Meet the Press to defend the program along with GOP Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Pete Hoekstra, and she even strongly suggested that the whistleblowers who exposed the lawbreaking and perhaps even the New York Times (but not Bush officials) should be criminally investigated, saying she “deplored the leak,” that “it is tragic that a lot of our capability is now across the pages of the newspapers,” and that the whistleblowers were “despicable.”  And Eric Lichtblau himself described how Harman, in 2004, attempted very aggressively to convince him not to write about the NSA program.

It’s a classic espionage story, right down to the part where Harman hangs up the phone with the Israeli agent after saying “This conversation doesn’t exist.”  For her part, Harman is denying the story, but Stein has several sources who read the transcripts from the NSA wiretaps (apparently gathered legally, but who the hell knows).  And he’s right, at the end, about the utter futility of this exercise, on all counts:

Ironically, however, nothing much was gained by it.

The Justice Department did not back away from charging Rosen and fellow AIPAC official Keith Weissman with espionage (for allegedly giving classified Pentagon documents to Israeli officials).

Gonzales was engulfed by the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal. (and the US Attorneys probe -ed.)

And Jane Harman was relegated to chairing a House Homeland Security subcommittee.

Josh Marshall asks a lot of the key questions, including whether Harman was being blackmailed by the Bush Administration to be their front person on wiretapping, having been wiretapped herself.  And Ron Kampeas has a somewhat different take, suggesting that this is only coming out because the case against AIPAC officials Rosen and Weissman is faltering.  There’s one way to know for sure: a full-blown investigation, which Harman ought to welcome to clear her name.

DiFi Can’t Handle The Truth

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Patrick Leahy’s call for a truth commission to investigate the crimes of the Bush Administration.  Obviously the events of the past couple days, with the release of OLC memos that really transformed the concept of democracy in the Bush era, is revitalizing this debate.

Justice Department officials said they might soon release additional opinions on those subjects. But the disclosure of the nine formerly secret documents fueled calls by lawmakers for an independent commission to investigate and make public what the Bush administration did in the global campaign against terrorism.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, said the revelations, together with the release of new information about the Central Intelligence Agency’s destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes, had underscored the need for a commission that would have the power to subpoena documents and testimony.

The OLC memos are still extraordinary, so horrifying in the picture they paint of executive power that the head of the OLC, Steven Bradbury, felt the need to disavow them near the end of the Bush regime.  It’s likely that he did so to take the heat off of himself.  But there ought to be no get-out-of-jail-free card for the actions taken as the result of these memos.  Glenn Greenwald looks at one of the documents.

The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens.  And it wasn’t only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls “domestic military operations” was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying — in secret and with no oversight — on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

As Harper’s Scott Horton says, “We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship.”   More on the memos from Jack Balkin and Anonymous Liberal.

Yoo, who is hiding out in Orange County at Chapman University, admitted in an interview to the OC Register only that his memos “lacked a certain polish,” in a profile more concerned with how he’s enjoying the beaches and Vietnamese food of Southern California rather than the “hippies, protesters and left-wing activists” of Berkeley.  Somehow, he’s still teaching law.  Jay Bybee, the other major player in the composition of these memos, is a 9th Circuit Appeals Judge in San Francisco.  Bruce Ackerman recommends impeachment.

Despite the calls of apologists to the contrary, we have to have a reckoning on this.  The previous President, aided by his allies, asserted broad executive powers far outside Constitutional strictures, and the results were illegal wiretapping, torture, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and a series of other crimes against the state and violations practically every amendment in the Bill of Rights as well as international law.  

But one member of the Judiciary Committee wasn’t at the truth commission hearing yesterday – Dianne Feinstein.  Through a spokesman, she sidestepped whether or not she supports a commission, saying she “hasn’t seen a proposal.”  But she is instituting a competing investigation, from her perch at the Senate Intelligence Committee, that is bound to be a whitewash:

The inquiry is aimed at uncovering new information on the origins of the programs as well as scrutinizing how they were executed — including the conditions at clandestine CIA prison sites and the interrogation regimens used to break Al Qaeda suspects, according to Senate aides familiar with the investigation plans.

Officials said the inquiry was not designed to determine whether CIA officials broke laws. “The purpose here is to do fact-finding in order to learn lessons from the programs and see if there are recommendations to be made for detention and interrogations in the future,” said a senior Senate aide, who like others described the plan on condition of anonymity because it had not been made public […]

The senior aide said that the committee had no short-term plans to hold public hearings, and that it was not clear whether the panel would release its final report to the public […]

Senate aides declined to say whether the committee would seek new testimony from former CIA Director George J. Tenet or other former top officials who were involved in the creation and management of the programs.

The Senate investigation will examine whether the detention and interrogation operations were carried out in ways that were consistent with the authorities and instructions issued in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said.

The panel will also look at whether lawmakers were kept fully informed. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the committee, and others have said that the Bush administration improperly withheld information from Congress on the CIA’s operations.

This is basically a turf war.  Feinstein wants control of the investigation process in her committee, over Patrick Leahy.  And she wants the hearings to be private as well as the final report.  Emptywheel writes:

Pat Leahy will have an investigation regardless of what DiFi says–and he’s going to start it now. So DiFi issues a vaguely formulated leak saying that she’s going to cover the CIA’s role in torture. And, voila! Now the CIA and DiFi can say try to circumscribe Leahy’s investigation. And of course, by doing an investigation that starts with the premise that it is “not designed to determine whether CIA officials broke laws,” even while admitting that CIA officers may have gone beyond the “instructions issued in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks,” it ensures no accountability even for those who went beyond Cheney’s torture regime. And, finally, absolutely no current plans to make public the results, either through public hearings or by releaing a report.

Call DiFi at (202) 224-3841. Thank her for recognizing the importance of understanding the mistakes we made in the past. Remind her that even Pat Roberts’ investigation into CIA Iraq intelligence was released publicly. Demand that she meet at least the level of transparency adopted by her Republican predecessors as SSCI Chair.

Agreed.  This is too important for it to be done in the secret bowels of official Washington as a “fact-finding mission” yielding a white paper that will wind up collecting dust on a shelf.  Feinstein is trying to let criminals off the hook, plain and simple.  History tells us that the inevitable return of criminals like this will only be emboldened to go further as a result.

Jane Harman’s Complicity in Illegal Torture and Warrantless Spying Programs

As it concerns the reports of Harman possibly being nominated to a post in the intelligence apparatus, it’s very important for everyone to remember how complicit Jane Harman has been in illegal acts by the Bush administration in allowing detainee torture to take place and in trampling on our rights as American citizens.  Because of her history, there’s no way she should get any of these jobs. (follow below)

From Glenn Greenwald’s post from July:

In December of last year, The Washington Post revealed:

Four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

The article noted that other Democratic members who received briefings on the CIA’s interrogation program included Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman. While Harman sent a letter to the CIA asking questions about the legality of the program, none ever took any steps to stop or even restrict the interrogation program in any way.

Identically, numerous key Democrats in Congress — including Rockefeller and Harman — were told that Bush had ordered the NSA to spy on American without warrants and outside of FISA. None of them did anything to stop it. In fact, while Rockefeller wrote a sad, hostage-like, handwritten letter to Dick Cheney in 2003 (which he sent to nobody else) — assuring Cheney that he would keep the letter locked away “to ensure that I have a record of this communication” — Harman was a vocal supporter of the illegal NSA program. Here’s what she told Time in January, 2006 in the wake of the NYT article revealing the NSA program:

Some key Democrats even defend it. Says California’s Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: “I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.”

Harman then went on Fox News and pronounced that the NSA program was “legal and necessary” and proudly said: “I support the program.” Even worse, in February, 2006, Harman went on “Meet the Press” and strongly suggested that the New York Times should be criminally prosecuted for having reported on the illegal program. And indeed, in 2004, Harman demanded that the NYT’s Eric Lichtblau not write about the NSA program. As Lichtblau wrote in his recent book about a 2004 conversation with Harman:

“You should not be talking about that here,” she scolded me in a whisper. “They don’t even know about that,” she said, gesturing to her aides, who were now looking on at the conversation with obvious befuddlement. “The Times did the right thing by not publishing that story,” she continued. I wanted to understand her position. What intelligence capabilities would be lost by informing the public about something the terrorists already knew — namely, that the government was listening to them? I asked her. Harman wouldn’t bite. “This is a valuable program, and it would be compromised,’ she said. I tried to get into some of the details of the program and get a better understanding of why the administration asserted that it couldn’t be operated within the confines of the courts. Harman wouldn’t go there either. “This is a valuable program,” she repeated.

In light of this sordid history of active complicity, is it really any wonder that these leading Democrats are desperate to quash any investigations or judicial adjudications of Bush administration actions that they knew about and did nothing to stop, in some cases even actively supporting?

While I’d love to have the chance to replace Harman with a progressive Democrat in my solid blue 36th Congressional District here in California, I would gladly keep her as my congressional representative if that kept her from being in any of those positions of power over intelligence matters.  I think the most important thing first is to prevent her from getting named as DNI or CIA Director or DHS Chief.  That’s essential.  

Amazing: Utah Democratic Candidate Takes a Stand Against Telco Immunity

That’s something you may be used to hearing about a Democratic candidate in other states, but here in Utah, this is truly a first. We have but one Democrat in our federal delegation, and on FISA, Matheson has proven himself a true Bush Dog. Now it appears a new candidate is ready to step up and show true leadership on a key issue.

Morgan is the Democratic candidate for Utah’s first congressional district, a seat currently held by school voucher supporting, “drill here, drill now” parroting, warrantless wiretap backing Rob Bishop. In addition to the 2/1 odds Morgan faces unseating the corporate funded incumbent, he also faces a battle with in-state leadership as a result of Rep. Jim Matheson, our only sitting Democrat, and faithful Blue Dog.  

From a press release posted by Morgan Bowen at BowenforCongress.com:

As a candidate for the United States Congress, I oppose granting retro-active immunity to telecommunications companies – who willingly broke the law, when so many others refused to do so – and the illegal wiretapping of American’s on the notion that no entity or body of government is above the law, according to our Constitution.While we do face serious threats to our national security, I believe it is possible to combat these threats without the erosion of our most basic liberties, and the protection from an invasive government body that the founding fathers made great efforts to include when drafting the Bill of Rights.This administration’s and our current congressman’s thinly masked agenda to grant retro-active immunity and remove oversight from the surveillance process is not so much about protecting American’s from realistic threats, but rather protecting this administration, and the representatives who supported them from accountability and their sworn duty to uphold our constitutional rights as American citizens.

Matheson has made clear his support of retro-active immunity for telco’s, and leveraging his position, has held sway even over state party leadership in his cave-in to Republicans and the president on many issues, FISA being the most “at odds” with the sentiment of a large number of Utah voters.

For Morgan to take such a stand, he pits himself against “the way things are done” in Utah, Matheson, and of course the decades old Republican majority of Utah’s federal delegation in his defense of the constitution, something our current leadership has forgotten how to do, despite their oath of office.

Following in the steps of Gary Trauner and many other western Democrats, Morgan is leading the way to a western coalition by welcoming bloggers and grassroots activists into his campaign with a level of access many of us have fought for again and again, but never seen before. His press release today in opposition to retro-active immunity and warrantless surveillance is further example of his ability to recognize how a true leader represents the voters of his district.

This is a historic step by a candidate fighting an uphill (but not insurmountable) battle already, and Morgan needs our help.

Please consider an ActBlue contribution to Morgan’s campaign, to encourage him in the defense of our Constitution, and as a sign to Matheson and other state leaders that the simple act of standing up for our basic rights can be an asset to a campaign, not a liability. Help Morgan fight.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Elite)

It is well-known that, shortly after elements of President Bush’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program was divulged by the New York Times in December 2005, Rep. Jane Harman wasn’t happy.  She went on Meet The Press shortly thereafter and blasted the paper for leaking the details.  But we did not know that she actively sought to cover up contents of the program PRIOR to the Pulitzer Prize-winning story.

Eric Lichtblau, who along with James Risen broke the story, has a new book coming out which details the wrangling between the NYT and the Administration which caused a one-year delay in the revelation of the warrantless wiretapping program in the press.  During that time, Lichtblau ran into Jane Harman in the Capitol.

In his book, Lichtblau tells how a few months after the story was held, he happened to be covering a House hearing where he heard Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) argue passionately for stronger civil liberties safeguards in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

Lichtblau saw this as an opportunity to question Harman about the warrantless wiretapping program, since Harman, as a member of the “gang of eight,” was one of the four Democrats who’d been briefed on it. He writes:

I approached Harman with notepad in hand and told her that I’d been involved in our reporting the year before on the NSA eavesdropping program. “I’m trying to square what I heard in there,” I said, “with what we know about that program.” Harman’s golden California tan turned a brighter shade of red. She knew exactly what I was talking about. Shooing away her aides, she grabbed me by the arm and drew me a few feet away to a more remote section of the Capitol corridor.

“You should not be talking about that here,” she scolded me in a whisper. “They don’t even know about that,” she said, gesturing to her aides, who were now looking on at the conversation with obvious befuddlement. “The Times did the right thing by not publishing that story,” she continued. I wanted to understand her position. What intelligence capabilities would be lost by informing the public about something the terrorists already knew – namely, that the government was listening to them? I asked her. Harman wouldn’t bite. “This is a valuable program, and it would be compromised,” she said. I tried to get into some of the details of the program and get a better understanding of why the administration asserted that it couldn’t be operated within the confines of the courts. Harman wouldn’t go there either. “This is a valuable program,” she repeated. This was clearly as far as she was willing to take the conversation, and we didn’t speak again until months later, after the NSA story had already run. By then, Harman’s position had undergone a dramatic transformation. When the story broke publicly, she was among the first in line on Capitol Hill to denounce the administration’s handling of the wiretapping program, declaring that what the NSA was doing could have been done under the existing FISA law.

What comes through in this exchange is that the elites in Washington have far more fealty to each other than the public.  Harman has come around; she argued strongly against the program and was one of the leaders in the House fight to amend FISA responsibly last week.  Now we’re seeing a likely stalemate on that issue, and George Bush is almost certain not to get what he desperately wants, amnesty for the telecom companies and a rejection of the lawsuits against them which could reveal even more about the program.

Still, we have this portrait of Harman, eager to cover up, convinced that what she is told must stay secret has to stay secret, untrained in the Constitution enough to see that warrantless wiretapping is unnecessary under FISA and in defiance of the Fourth Amendment.  It’s relieving a bit that the past few years, with the help of the blogosphere, have given many in the Congress an education on the document they swear to uphold and defend.  It’s also completely sad.