Harman Incident: Personalities Over Policy

What I find particularly disturbing about the reaction in some quarters to the Jane Harman incident is their inability to separate their disdain for Harman with the merits of what appears to have occurred. Consider this reporting from The Hill:

“This appears to have been by-the-book,” said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation [. . .]

Apparently Bankston thinks the selective leaking information gleaned through wiretaps is "by the book." A less vindictive civil libertarian disagrees:

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the abuse is that NSA officials then leaked the details of her eavesdropped conversations in order to embarrass her politically. “I think it stinks,” Rotenberg said. “There’s no procedure in which it is supposed to be leaked to the public.”

Bankston, as opposed to Rotenberg, has let his personal feelings towards Harman interfere with his normally good judgment in this matter.

The daily revelations in the case have cast a good deal of doubt on the original reporting by CQ, despite its contortions today to try and defend its inaccurate reporting (CQ originally reported that Speaker Pelosi had not been informed of the Harman wiretap.) At this point, the only way to know what actually happened would be an open investigation. And it appears that House Intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes has called for exactly that. Until then, it would be prudent for everyone to withhold judgment on this incident.

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    I knew that there had to be something more (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by andgarden on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 11:09:29 AM EST
    to Pelosi's decision in '07 than personal animosity. That original CQ story, and the way many of the left blogs have been behaving toward it, was seriously disappointing.  

    As I understand it, CQ is now asserting (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 11:34:25 AM EST
    that the leak to Pelosi came from agents involved in the case (probably FBI, I suppose) who were seriously p*ssed at Gonzo for shutting down the investigation - so much so that they went around to Pelosi.

    I find that kind of improbable - though arguably reasonable - for a couple reasons.

    One, it would be grossly insubordinate.  FBI and similar agents are, if nothing else, creatures who would be wholly lost without a heirarchy and have obedience to it bred into their bones.

    Two, given the compartmentalization of things that would go on in CI investigations of this nature, particularly given the personages, the agents would have no idea whether there was an investigation going on relative to the person to whom they were leaking, and would therefore be exposing themselves to obstruction charges (or worse).

    On the other hand, I do understand a motivation to tell a person who might be deciding whether or not to place a person (in this instance, Harman) in an even more sensitive position that "hey, she's got a Big Problem and here's what it is."

    If I was called on to say who leaked to Pelosi - if, indeed, someone did - it would have to be someone in the CI who would know who was being surveilled and who not, and who might be in a compromised position and who not.  The leaker - to be safe for himself - would have to know all the compartments and what was in them.  That's a very short list, headed by the Director of the FBI.

    But that's just my surmise.

    Pelosi (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 11:37:20 AM EST
    indicates it was through proper channels.

    CQ is clearly flailing now.


    Apples and oranges (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 11:38:41 AM EST
    Bankston's talking about the tap itself, Rotenberg expands the topic to the leak.

    Come now (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 11:43:51 AM EST
    Bankston knows the whole story. The fact that he, BTW he really does not know (and neither do you or I) how the tap came about.

    What we do know about is the leak.

    How came he to comment on the tap but not the leak?

    I'll tell you how - he detests Harman (with good reason) and he allowed his personal feelings to cloud his analysis.  


    A little unfair (none / 0) (#6)
    by Steve M on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 12:39:46 PM EST
    It's obvious that Bankston is only saying that the original wiretap is "by the book."  In fact he makes clear that he's not saying the entire saga is "by the book":

    "What wasn't by the book," he said, "was killing the investigation so that Jane Harman could support warrantless wiretapping."

    There's no reason to think Bankston was even weighing in on the issue of whether the leaks to CQ were improper.  If I were the one being questioned, I would see it as a completely separate issue.

    I disagree (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 12:47:40 PM EST
    Especially (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 12:48:15 PM EST
    given Bankston weighing in on the Gonzales allegations.

    Well (none / 0) (#9)
    by Steve M on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 01:05:36 PM EST
    if I am mistaken then I am proud to stand with my colleague Ben Masel on the side of mistakenness.

    I'm guessing (none / 0) (#10)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 01:33:15 PM EST
    that Kevin answered the question he was asked by the reporter, while Marc was either asked a broader question, or took just it where he wanted to go.

    I personally doubt that (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 02:00:45 PM EST
    Pelosi acted properly (none / 0) (#12)
    by msobel on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 01:39:29 PM EST
    She Upheld the Hypocratic Oath: First Do No Harman

    The important thing here to my mind is whether Rove used the wiretape to blackmail Harman in supporting wiretapping.   That would be like, capitalism, you know using the proceeds to grow the business.

    Yeah, Pelosi must have imagined the headlines (none / 0) (#14)
    by BobTinKY on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 02:21:34 PM EST
    if the newly elected Dem majority had as Intelligence Chair someone under this sort of investigation.

    Even if not the reult of Rovian blackmail, and I agree that is the important thing, it is infuriating Harman gave bipartisian cover to an effort that may very well have cost Kerry the election.

    Much damage had been done by 2004, to Iraq, the economy etc. but it would have been so much less if we had been able to get to work fixing things in Jan 2005.


    Deserve it ? I don't know (none / 0) (#15)
    by BobTinKY on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 02:25:40 PM EST
    what about the media lynching John Kerry was being subjected to at the time Harman worked to bury a story that could well have resulted in the perpetrators of that lynching losing the 2004 election.

    Yeah, two wrongs don;t make a right & all that, but I am coming up a bit empty finding any sympathy for this lady.

    Perfect example of the problem (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 02:29:28 PM EST
    Harman was not wiretapped until 2005. She supported warrantless wiretapping in 2004.

    Disagree with her as I do, no need to falsely smear her.

    Besides (none / 0) (#17)
    by call me Ishmael on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 03:08:53 PM EST
    one can recognize that the leak is sleazy and still think that it is a bit odd for Harman now to be complaining about FISA generated wiretaps.  If she showed some recognition that she had supported precisely the sort of wiretapping that she is now protesting (except of course in her mind it was always other people who were going to be tapped) it might make people think she isn't really in a position to make a principled complaint.  As I read the Hill thing that is what Bankston was commenting on.

    Time to recognize the first part (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 03:11:51 PM EST
    And understand that actually Harman had a conversion on the warrantless wiretapping in 2006, when she faced a primary challenger.

    For those of us who paid attention to the issue from the beginning, this is common knowledge.


    You aren't (none / 0) (#19)
    by call me Ishmael on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 08:10:14 PM EST
    the only one who paid attention from the beginning thank you.  Harman had a temporary conversion when she had a challenger (to whom I gave money if we are checking our bone fides here) but has shown no real change other than political (and temporary) instinct.