In Defense of Jane Harman

As I stated earlier, I think Jane Harman's chance of chairing the Intelligence Committee were doomed when Steny Hoyer was elected Majority Leader. I support Harman's bid, but I think it is not going to happen. That said, I think Glenn Greenwald is quite unfair to Harman when he says:

I think Harman -- who was one of the most aggressive defenders of the President's warrantless eavesdropping program ("both legal and necessary," she repeatedly chimed) and is currently under investigation for her work on behalf of AIPAC -- would make a horrendous Chair . . . She has been far too sympathetic to the administration's excesses and far too eager to serve as a Democratic shield publicly defending the President.

That simply has not been true for the past year. For example, Harman has been leading the fight for the full release of the NIE on Iraq:

A spokesman for Negroponte's office said the latest intelligence estimate on Iraq was begun in August, and Bush administration officials have indicated that it is unlikely to be ready for release until next year.

Harman has expressed frustration with that timetable. She said Thursday that she had recently learned of a separate assessment on Iraq that was much closer to being finished.

. . . "I know that there is a substantially complete assessment on Iraq," Harman said. "I understand it is grim. I understand many working inside the intelligence community are frustrated because the release of that document is being blocked."

On warrantless wiretapping, Harman worked with John Conyers to introduce a new bill to insure the President complies with FISA:

In the wake of the USA Today story about the NSA's collection of telephone records of millions of Americans without court order, my colleague John Conyers and I introduced an important new bill -- and we're asking for your help to encourage your Member of Congress to cosponsor it.

The "Lawful Intelligence and Surveillance of Terrorists in an Emergency by NSA Act" (LISTEN Act) would make it crystal clear that any efforts to listen in on Americans or gather phone & email records must comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- created by Congress in 1978 to correct the excesses of the Nixon Administration -- and Title III of the criminal code. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Please email your Member of Congress now, and urge them to join Rep. Conyers and me in bringing the LISTEN Act to a vote on the House floor!

/s/ Jane Harman

Harman has steadfastly opposed the talk of war with Iran:

It's not that Iran isn't a threat. A nuclear Iran would constitute a strategic threat to the U.S. and Europe, and an existential threat to Israel. Iran bankrolls Hezbollah, a dangerous terrorist organization that has attacked western interests. President Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rhetoric is hideous and must be condemned. But our intelligence on Iran's nuclear program is not good enough to know Iran's true capabilities and intentions. Until we know what Iran is capable of, we won't know the most prudent course of action.

I've spent the past three years helping to ensure that we don't repeat the mistakes that led to the Iraq war, our nation's biggest strategic and tactical blunder in 30 years. I helped lead the charge in Congress to investigate the massive intelligence failure that led to the invasion. In September 2003, I co-wrote the first critique of pre-war intelligence in a letter to then-CIA Director George Tenet. I also pushed the House Intelligence Committee to conduct a full investigation of the failure. And in April 2004, I introduced legislation to modernize the Intelligence Community. (A version of that legislation became law in December 2004.)

The Bush Administration's incompetence and arrogance have undermined stability in the region. Donald Rumsfeld is the architect of the war and he should be fired.

A smart policy on Iran must begin with good intelligence. Before the drumbeat for war gets any louder, I'm demanding more accuracy and less hype.

That's why I strongly supported an Amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act that would require classified quarterly reports to the Intelligence Committees on Iran's nuclear program. The Republican-led Rules Committee chose not to allow the House to debate that Amendment -- a move that I deemed so egregious that I voted against the Intelligence funding bill for the first time in my career.

We have little clarity on Iran's capability and intentions. This is not the time to talk of war.

Frankly, I think it is a shame Harman will not chair the Intelligence Committee and it is a shame that Glenn has been unfair to her in his post.

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    Too late. (3.00 / 1) (#1)
    by fafnir on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 10:59:23 AM EST
    While Harmon can change her mind to now play Dem ball after five years of enabling this regime, the 2,865 dead troops can't change Bush's mind about deceiving this nation into an unecessary invasion.

    Like so many lap dog DLC Dems, Harmon failed to ask the tough questions when it really mattered. Now, she wants to be rewarded for her failure? I don't think so.

    Harmon /Bush enabler (none / 0) (#2)
    by wlgriffi on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 11:26:47 AM EST
    You are correct. Harmon has been too cozy with her mediocre performance on the committee. It's time for a little BACKBONE in opposing Bush policies.Pelosi should pick someone new for this committee.

    Person's best friend (3.00 / 1) (#4)
    by JohnLopresti on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 01:30:35 PM EST
    Jane Harman won reelection in the primary pretty easily in a race in which the challenger, a local activist, mounted a late start which garnered more than 1/3 of the votes.  The challenger, Marcy Winograd, has launched a replacement website since the primary, which Marcy calls winogradwatchdog - democracy's best friend .  I hope Marcy, with the support of her excellent website authors, continues to organize for the next elections in 2008.  Marcy's background is in education; and she participated in teach-ins about peace, years back.
    In Harman's public rhetoric often I have seen an obligatorily deferential overtone.  For example, when the wiretap scandal appeared in the news, critics were decrying the FISA court system's exclusion from its constitutional responsibilities as watchdog over governmental intercepts of communications.  The executive and their congressional apologetes issued various denials couched in parsed syntax, finally admitting to intercepts such as the ones revealed in the recent rulings by judges Anna Diggs Taylor in the midwest, and Vernon Walker on the west coast.  People questioned the privileged 8 congressmembers who were supposed to have been received information that the wiretap program was happening.  Harman made a public statement that she knew but the media reports were revealing more than the briefings by the executive.  It is a difficult position to be the ranking minority member on the committee, HPSCI, and receive updates ex officio:  she needs to demonstrate she is worthy of trust.  Sen. Feinstein similarly complained that the information briefed was less than appropriate once the beginnings of the story emerged in media December 2005.
    The Senate delayed processing a redesign of the FISA statute, until this week it reemerged under Senator Spector's sponsorship as part of the lameduck wishlist.  The draft neoFISA legislation is available on the internet.  A good site to view it is there.
    While I hope NPelosi manages to move the fulcrum on HPSCI further toward progressive politics than the ordinary comfort zone in which Harman has operated in recent years, I see the leadership positions as important rewards in a tight timeframe for accomplishing much in the 110th congress; and I trust the new Speaker to coordinate with the upper chamber leadership in that distribution for the sake of maximizing attainment of goals.
    I have admiration for the initiative and insight Glenn exhibits, but I share Jeralyn's critical view in this instance, that his panning Harman is overreaching.  Setting aside Greenwald's occasional hyperbole, to be fair, he accomplishes much by his writings.

    Forgiveness is divine, but not forgetting (none / 0) (#3)
    by froomkin on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 12:42:30 PM EST
    I just can't comprehend why you think the most recent year's good behavior -- following the straws in the wind -- excuses the previous horrible behavior.  When we needed guts and good instincts on civil liberties, WE DID NOT GET IT.

    This behavior was not excusable, should not be forgotten in a mere year, and is disqualifying if not permanently, then at least for more than a year.