OK

The original CQ story on the Harman wiretap created many more questions than answers and it appears that one of them is a clearer today.

In all of the cross-accusations that have been flying around Jeff Stein's various reports on this story, it's been completely unclear which agency was responsible for the tap that picked up Harman--the FBI, CIA, or NSA all seem to be floating around in the story. As of today, it seems that it was not the NSA.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — The top U.S. intelligence official says California Democrat Jane Harman was monitored by a government wiretap but that the surveillance was not directed by the National Security Agency.

Dennis Blair, the National Intelligence Director, declined to say Monday which agency requested the wiretap and oversaw the information gleaned from Harman's conversations. Blair was speaking at the dedication of a new intelligence research facility.

That doesn't get us a whole lot closer to who the target was, but it's now likelier to be someone holding U.S. citizenship. But at least it, maybe, takes the NSA out of the picture.

And CQ's Jeff Stein has another story, again prominently featuring yet another Republican--Hastert this time--and much more axe-grinding, targeting Negroponte and Gonzales along with Pelosi and Harman. After this weekend's Porter Goss screed against Pelosi and Harman over torture, it's beginning to look like someone trying to further Goss's hand has helped further much of the CQ story line. Consider this, from today.

Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert says he learned from a CIA-connected “whistleblower” in 2006 that Bush administration officials were suppressing the existence of a wiretapped conversation between Rep. Jane Harman and a suspected Israeli agent.

John D. Negroponte, former head of the then newly established Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), had blocked then CIA Director Porter J. Goss from briefing Hastert, according to the account the whistleblower gave the former Republican House speaker.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who became CIA director upon Goss’s forced resignation in May 2006, also had not informed Hastert about the wiretap, according to what the whistleblower told Hastert’s aides.

Under a decades-old agreement between Congress and the CIA, the head of U.S. intelligence was supposed to brief the top House Republican and Democrat if one of their members became ensnared in a national security investigation.

Incensed that Bush officials had ignored their obligation to alert him, Hastert demanded an explanation from then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Hastert said in an April 25 email.

But Hastert, a former Illinois Republican, was rebuffed, he said. Hastert directed his staff to inform his Democratic counterpart, then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., about the Harman wiretap.

The story is still messy, still getting no closer to anyone making any definitive accusation of wrong-doing on the part of Harman, or any attempted cover-up by Pelosi, but continuing to try to keep a cloud over them by the repetition of the suggestion that Pelosi knew something that she's not saying and Harman did something that hasn't been proven. Hastert's former COS, however, does go to pains to say that they had no reason to believe Harman was a security risk. So there's that.

What it does show is a Bush intelligence structure completely at war with itself, using what were apparently illegal leaks and unauthorized conversations to further the fight, and a Justice department playing politics in what may or may not have been national security issue.

And, it provides a further distraction from the main intelligence story of the day--torture while trying to keep two of the strongest torture opponents--both foes of Goss--under a cloud.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 01:38 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.