The Jane-Harman/AIPAC story is only getting more interesting.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has gone on the record with information that suggests a broader effort than we’d yet been aware of by the Bush administration to keep secret the fact that it had wiretapped a member of Congress.
Hastert told CQ’s Jeff Stein — who broke the original story last week and since then has led the pack on advancing it — that in the fall of 2006, a “CIA-connected whistleblower” alerted his office to the fact that John Negroponte, then the Director of National Intelligence, had blocked the CIA from informing congressional leaders about the Harman wiretap, as it was required to do by a separation of powers protocol in place since the 1980s.
In response, Hastert says, he wrote to Alberto Gonzales, then the Attorney General, demanding an explanation. But after a few weeks passed, DOJ told Hastert’s office that there was no reason to brief the speaker.
Next, Hastert says, he had his office notify the office of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi about the Harman wiretap.
It’s not clear whether the whistleblower informed Hastert’s office of exactly what Harman was recorded as saying — that is, that Harman discussed weighing in on the AIPAC case, in exchange for help lobbying Pelosi to give Harman the job of intelligence chair — and if so, whether Hasert’s office passed that information on to Pelosi.
And as an additional note, Stein adds that Michael Hayden, who in May 2006 took over from Porter Goss as CIA director, learned of the wiretap from a memo left by Goss, but did nothing to notify congressional leaders. But a year later, Hayden gave Harman, the the ranking Democrat on the house intelligence committee, an award “in appreciation for her thoughtful and thorough oversight of CIA.”
What to make of all this?
Hastert’s unsuccessful appeal to Gonzales is certainly ironic, because Stein’s earlier reporting has suggested that it was Gonzo who blocked then-CIA director Porter Goss from briefing Congress. The then-AG also reportedly went so far as to quash DOJ’s burgeoning investigation into Harman, believing the hawkish Democrat could be helpful in defending the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. In other words, Gonzales, Negroponte, and Hayden all appear to have deliberately worked to keep Congress in the dark about the wiretap.
Was that because, as Gonzo reportedly believed, it continued to view Harman as an ally whose reputation needed protecting? Or because it wanted more broadly to limit the amount of information disclosed to Congress and the public about its wiretapping activities? Some combination of the two? And which other Bushies helped keep this secret?
Something tells us this isn’t the end of the story….