Monday, April 27, 2009

CQ: Hastert knew of AIPAC infiltration

Jeff Stein has a new brain-twister of an article in CQ titled 'CIA “Whistleblower” Told Hastert About Suppression of Harman Wiretap.'

The premise of the article is that in 2006, ODNI Negroponte, apparently at the behest of Attorney General Gonzales, blocked DCI Porter Goss from following protocol and informing the House leadership, Hastert and Pelosi, about the Harman wiretaps. In May 2006, Michael Hayden replaced Goss as DCI, but still there was no briefing for Hastert and Pelosi.

In the Fall of 2006, someone from CIA HQ, either under orders or freelancing, 'blew the whistle' to Hastert, 'incensed' that the protocols had been breached, then wrote a letter to Attorney General Gonzales demanding to be briefed. Gonzales ignored the request for weeks, but eventually told Hastert that there was nothing in the files to warrant a briefing.

By this time, the 'whistleblower' was becoming "agitated" about the lack of movement on the case. Fearing that the whistle blower might release the wiretap transcripts to the media - which would expose the operation against AIPAC and "unfairly 'smear' Harman as a foreign agent," (who they knew to be "highly respected") - Hastert's staff told Pelosi's staff about the wiretap on Harman in 'early October' 2006. Pelosi's Chief of Staff “remembers a conversation about it with (Hastert's Chief of Staff ), but that’s all.”

Kudos to Jeff Stein for getting Hastert on the record about this, and continuing to chase the story - and I'm sure that the 'facts' presented here are (mostly) accurate, but the combination of narrative & spin presented here doesn't make much sense. I'm not criticizing Stein here - but there's much more going on here than Stein offers in this piece.

For starters, Hastert was most likely not really concerned about separation-of-power arguments, nor about following protocol. His demand for a briefing was much more likely because he desperately wanted to know the status of the 'sister investigation' that caught him on wiretaps in the years leading up to 1999, and probably since then.

Similarly, Hastert's efforts to inform Pelosi were intended to appease the so-called whistleblower from the CIA so that the news of the investigation didn't get exposed in public, because that would be very bad for Hastert and his cronies.

For some reason, Hastert thought that telling Pelosi would assuage the 'agitated' CIA 'whistleblower,' and stop him from going to the media. But as Jeff Stein reported last week, a CIA official independently told Pelosi. "She knew. We made sure she knew," said one of the former officials, chuckling."

(As an aside, from the pieces of Hastert's statements that Stein published, Hastert seems keen to emphasize two points: a) that the wiretap was a "legally authorized wiretap related to an espionage investigation" and b) that he "instructed (his) staff in early October 2006." I'm not exactly sure of the significance of either of those yet, but they are interesting details.)

Goss and the CIA
We also don't know the motivations of the CIA 'whistleblower.' Was Porter Goss really worried about the protocol of informing the House Leadership? Was he really worried that there might be a mole in their midst? Goss himself was Chair of the House Intelligence Committee from 1997 to 2005, so he was well aware that Hastert himself, and others in the House, had been compromised by Israeli and Turkish surrogates.

Perhaps the CIA 'whistleblower' actually was freelancing, and was legitimately concerned about the possibility that Harman would become Chair of House Intelligence. In that case, they only needed to tell Pelosi, but they told Hastert too, under the guise that the protocol dictated that both Hastert and Pelosi should know this information.

Regardless, at the same time that the CIA 'whistleblower' was telling Hastert, he was apparently exposing the issue in the media regardless of Hastert's efforts.

Hastert instructed his "staff in early October 2006 to tell Leader Pelosi" about the wiretaps, but the Time article detailing the essence of the story was published on Oct 20, 2006 anyway.

In a ridiculed op-ed in the New York Times in early 2006 called Loose Lips Sink Spies, Goss wrote:
I take seriously my agency's responsibility to protect our national security. Unauthorized disclosures undermine our efforts and abuse the trust of the people we are sworn to protect. Since becoming director, I have filed criminal reports with the Department of Justice because of such compromises. That department is committed to working with us to investigate these cases aggressively...

Our enemies cannot match the creativity, expertise, technical genius and tradecraft that the C.I.A. brings to bear in this war. Criminal disclosures of national security information, however, can erase much of that advantage. The terrorists gain an edge when they keep their secrets and we don't keep ours.
Your choice, Mr Goss: A) Did you file a criminal report with the DoJ in this case? Or B) Was this an 'authorized disclosure'?

The incurious Nancy Pelosi is apparently befuddled about these events.

In May 2006, according to LA Weekly, Harman "had some major contributors call Pelosi to impress upon her the importance of keeping Jane in place. According to these members, this tactic, too, hasn't endeared Harman to Pelosi."

The Harman thing was obviously on her radar, then - both privately and in the press - at a time when "Pelosi had soured on her California colleague."

At some point, apparently in the early Fall of 2006, the CIA officials unofficially told Pelosi:
that Harman had been overheard on a wiretap agreeing to intercede with Justice Department officials to try to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
However, Pelosi only has some vague recollection of this. Now she says that she can not remember exactly who told her, but "she thought it was the FBI."

But again, according to the 'whistleblowers':
"She knew. We made sure she knew," said one of the former officials, chuckling."
But according to Pelosi, they apparently didn't 'make sure' that she really knew.

And again, in "early October," Hastert briefed Pelosi on the matter, in a highly irregular meeting, that Harman was on the wiretaps. This meeting presumably included the fact that Hastert was 'incensed' at the breach of protocol, that Gonzales was blocking the whole thing, and that CIA officials from headquarters had decided to circumvent their chain of command, yet Pelosi's firewall Chief of Staff "remembers a conversation about it... but that’s all.”

And this was all during the time when there was a large battle taking place - in public and behind closed doors - about who Pelosi would appoint to Chair the House Intelligence Committee (Reyes was appointed in December 2006)

Yet apparently this was all eminently forgettable to Pelosi.

(Compare and contrast Hastert's level of detail with Pelosi's haziness. I suspect that Hastert's apparent clarity of recollection is due to Hastert doing some CYA - both then and now. And I suspect that Pelosi's haziness is due to same.)

Why It Matters
As Phil Giraldi said in his interview with Scott Horton last week, if not for the wiretap:
(Y)ou might have had someone who was - essentially - an Israeli agent either heading the House Permanent Intelligence Committee - or heading the CIA, which was another job that Jane Harman had a shot at.
At his blog on Saturday, Giraldi said:
As a former intelligence officer who has himself recruited agents of influence, I can tell you that Harman was the fruit of a high level Israeli covert action.

Whomever Harman spoke to, she was surely aware that she was in contact with someone empowered to promise her rewards from Israel and the Israeli lobby. The threat to withhold contributions from the Democratic Party if Harman were not to be named chairman is significant, as it indicates that it was all part of a careful plan.

The Israeli on the phone was committing espionage against the United States by trying to influence the actions of a government official and Harman was committing a number of possible crimes by agreeing to cooperate in return for her own personal advancement.

Please take my word for it that the quid pro quo is precisely how an intelligence officer recruits an agent. You ask for a favor and give a favor in return. As both the favor and the reward are illegal and the agreement itself can be used to blackmail the target of the operation, the target henceforth will be obligated to do what the intelligence officer wants or risk exposure.

This whole transaction is particularly important in the context of Jane Harman and what she might have represented to the Israelis. She was chairman presumptive of the House Intelligence Committee and subsequently was spoken of as being on the short list for Obama’s Director of Central Intelligence. If she had obtained either position, which would have happened if the FBI had not been privy to the transaction, she would have had complete access to all of America’s secrets and would have been involved in policy making. She would also have been working for Israel. So I have to ask, why isn’t the MSM interested in aggressively pursuing this story?

Jeff Stein
Again, kudos to Jeff Stein for pushing this story so hard. And congratulations to him for continuing to get people on the record and advancing the story. He has said that he was completely taken by surprise by the traction that this story has received. And at the same time, Giraldi is also correct that the MSM needs to agressively push it further.

Giraldi has a new article. Read the whole thing, but this excerpt was maybe the juiciest:
"Once you are on the hook in an intelligence relationship, there is no getting off it. Had Harman done a favor for the Israelis and been rewarded in return, it would have been a skeleton in her closet forever. The Israelis might also have taped the incriminating conversations, presumably unaware that the FBI was also on the line. The Israelis would surely remind her of her crime whenever they need a favor, and she would be forced to pay the piper whenever called upon. What could have been better for Israel than owning the director of central intelligence or the head of the House Intelligence Committee? What could have been worse for the United States?"

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