In our last post on the Jane-Harman/AIPAC story, we noted growing evidence that Bush administration officials worked aggressively to prevent Congress from learning about Harman’s wiretapped conversation with that suspected Israeli agent. But Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency had an (unfortunately titled) post late last week that took things in a very different, but equally interesting, direction.
Kampeas conducts a close reading of a New York Times report on the affair from last week to make a strong case that it was Porter Goss, then the CIA director, who took the initiative in going after Harman after hearing her on the wiretap, by trying to have authorized a separate wiretap of the lawmaker herself.
Piecing this doozy together requires jumping from the lede in the NYT story, way way down. But look:
WASHINGTON — The director of the Central Intelligence Agency concluded in late 2005 that a conversation picked up on a government wiretap was serious enough to require notifying Congressional leaders that Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, could become enmeshed in an investigation into Israeli influence in Washington, former government officials said Thursday.
Now skip 9 grafs:
Former officials said that Mr. Goss had first seen the transcripts of Ms. Harman’s phone conversations in late 2005, when the government was renewing its requests to a special court to wiretap the calls of the Israeli operative, whom they would not identify. Ms. Harman was not the target of the eavesdropping but her conversations were picked up because she spoke with the Israeli agent.
Note the operative verbs: Lede: It was Goss who “concluded” that the tap required more action. He drew this conclusion not because Harman’s alleged involvement was raised with him, but during a periodic review of material supposedly incriminating an entirely different person. Tenth graf: The review is when the transcripts were “first seen” by Goss. As in, no one had bothered to bring it to Goss’ attention before. Maybe because it wasn’t all that.
Operatives tracking Israeli guy (let’s call him “Bob”) routinely listen in on his calls. The Bob operatives need to run their transcripts by a court periodically to renew the wiretap. Porter Goss reviews the request (as a matter of routine? or did he know something?) and says, wait a minute. This involves Jane!
Or, perhaps, “This involves JANE, bwahahaha.”
As Kampeas notes, Goss and Harman had a history of tension. She had led an aggressive probe of the Duke Cunningham scandal, which brought down CIA Number 3 Dusty Foggo, who had been appointed by Goss. Fallout from the scandal eventually contributed to Goss’s forced resignation as CIA chief in 2006.
So by this reading, Goss saw a chance to go after an opponent, but was eventually stymied by other Bush officials like Gonzales and Negroponte — not that their own motives were necessarily pure. And, again by this reading, it’s sources close to Goss that have been driving the story from the start.
We also recommend the last part of Kampeas’ post, where he says nice things about our coverage of the story.