The officials allegedly lobbied Harman to intervene in Justice Department espionage investigations against them in exchange for their lobbying members of the House Intelligence Committee to install Harman (D) as chairwoman. These allegations had first emerged when Time reported the story in 2006 using anonymous sources. Now, Congressional Quarterly has brought it back into the limelight - with some twists.
CQ Reporter Jeff Stein cites more anonymous sources who are familiar with a transcript of an NSA wiretap in which Harman essentially agrees to the exchange with the AIPAC spies.
This reported exchange raises new questions about whether or not Harman had actually been wiretapped in 2006 during an investigation into Israeli espionage -- specifically, whether or not the investigation was conducted by the FBI as originally thought or whether it went through NSA, as CQ now reports. It also opens up new suspicions about the motive. Stein claims that former AG Alberto Gonzalez had pushed the CIA to drop investigations against Harman because he wanted her support in the warrantless wiretapping surveillance controversy. He also reports that former CIA director Porter Goss was the one who authorized NSA's tap of Harman; Goss had worked directly with Harman on the intelligence committee.
Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.
Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."
If the story is true, Harman almost certainly was wiretapped, despite the denials of her office, the Justice Department, and the FBI in 2006. Harman's office has again denied the allegations raised on Sunday by CQ. But Laura Rozen at Foreign Policy says that Harman may be alone in their denials this time around:
...if one expected the relevant agencies and actors in the story to issue equally vehement denials, that wasn't the case on Monday. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence sent inquiries to the Justice Department. The Justice Department said it wouldn't have any comment and didn't anticipate having any anytime soon. Goss denied to comment to CQ, as did Alberto Gonzales.Rozen raises some other questions about the legitimacy of the allegations, including the fact that Harman was the lone opponent of the original anonymous wiretapping investigation on the intelligence committee. If the CQ story is true, this is a pay-to-play of epic proportions.