Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The evil temptations of lobbyists

Sibel Edmonds has a new op-ed over at BradBlog.

Brad's introduction reads:
The former FBI translator and whistleblower suggests blackmail may be at the heart of Congressional refusal to bring accountability and oversight to its own members - such as both Hastert and Harman - in matters of espionage and national security.
Read it all.

Sibel criticizes those on the left and the right, in the corporate media and alternative press, Democratic and Republican, who have either ignored the Harman/AIPAC story, or have attempted to spin the story in various directions, echoing Jeff Stein's recent criticisms of "some wild imaginations... in the blogarama coverage."

Sibel notes that the Harman case, at first glance:
"may appear to involve blackmailing --- or a milder version, exploitation of Congress by the Executive Branch --- deeper analysis would suggest even further implications, where Congressional members themselves use the incriminating information against each other to prevent pursuit or investigation of cases that they may be directly or indirectly involved in."
Regarding Harman, and those spinning the story, Sibel says:
"But, let's not forget, the misuse of incriminating information, for the purpose of blackmail, does not turn the practitioner of the wrongful deed into a victim, nor does it make the wrongful criminal deed less wrong. Instead of spinning the story, taking away attention from the facts in hand, and making Harman a victim, we must focus on this case, on Harman, as an example of a very serious disease that has infected our Congress for far too long. Those who have been entrusted with the oversight and accountability of our government cannot do so if they are vulnerable to such blackmail from the very same people they are overseeing…Period."
That is, if Harman is guilty, her guilt is independent of any motives of those targeting and/or blackmailing her, and the only way of cleaning up the system is to stand up against the 'blackmail,' whether hard or soft.

Not surprisingly, Sibel points to the direct parallels between the Harman case and the Hastert case. As far as has been publicly reported, we only 'know' that Harman was picked up on wiretaps that targeted other suspected Israeli agents, but Sibel makes clear that in the Hastert case, Hastert himself was specifically "targeted by FBI counterintelligence and counterespionage investigations."

In fact, as Sibel has repeatedly said, in 1998/9, there was so much evidence against Hastert that there were substantial steps taken to appoint a Special Prosecutor - apparently derailed by the Clinton impeachment (which incidentally led to the rise of Turkey's clients, Bob Livingston and then Hastert, to Speaker of the House.) As Sibel has repeatedly emphasized, when the Executive Branch finds evidence of illegal activity by Americans on FISA wiretaps, they can and should then open up criminal cases against the perpetrators - whether counter-narcotics, counter-espionage or whatever - and this is apparently exactly what they did in the case of Hastert, and others.

The 'debate' about what to do in the Harman case has always essentially assumed that the FBI can do exactly that; transfer something learned during a counter-intelligence investigation to somewhere that it can be acted upon. So I was very surprised to see TPM Muckraker 'report' today that:
"And Melvin Goodman, a former CIA analyst who's now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, underlined the extent to which a leak of this nature would violate national security protocol. "When American names came up on these intercepts, they were handled very carefully," Goodman told TPMuckraker. "The names would be blacked out.""
Now, I generally like the work of TPM Muckraker, but they (and others) have (correctly) been named by Jeff Stein as leading the 'Harman -was-framed' pushback.

I'm also a fan of Mel Goodman, so I suspect that his comments here have been mis-characterized, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him walking-back certain elements of his on-the-record comments. (At the end of the column, he notes that "some within the FBI were "incredibly bitter about the way [Attorney General Eric] Holder dropped the case."")

I am not an expert on FISA and minimization procedures, but if Goodman is correct that Harman's name should have been blacked out on a FISA wiretap, then perhaps this was an abuse of power (although, as Sibel says, that doesn't forgive the underlying crime), or perhaps Harman was, in fact, the target of these wiretaps. Perhaps the wiretaps were legitimately the result of a FISA investigation, and that might explain why her name was not minimized? Again, I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about here, but that might explain some of the discrepancies about the reporting here. As I noted here, for some reason, "Hastert seems keen to emphasize... that the wiretap was a "legally authorized wiretap")

I'm getting a bit off-track.

Make sure you read Sibel's whole piece.

Sibel ends by quoting Will Rogers:
"If we have Senators and Congressmen there that can't protect themselves against the evil temptations of lobbyists, we don't need to change our lobbies, we need to change our representatives."
So true, and yet weirdly discomforting. Is it possible?

1 comment:

dqueue said...

Didn't John Bolton catch some flack for demanding full wiretap records from NSA (i.e., to include the domestic participant, unredacted)? I feel his wiretap issues predate Harman's incident... nonetheless, I imagine he's not the only one doing such things.