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The layers on this story just keep peeling and peeling away. At this point, there are more questions than answers and I want to lay some of them out, but before we got too schadenfreudey about it all, some clarifcations.

First, as Glenn and Marcy both point out, these were approved wiretaps, so she wasn't really hoisted by her own warrantless wiretap-loving petard. Second, Greg pokes a hole in part of the story. He contacted NYT executive editor Bill Keller, and got a flat denial that Harman had helped delay the wiretapping story until after the 2004 election. The Bush administration apparently did that all on it's own.

There seems little to dispute in the part of the story about Gonzo "needing Jane" to support the warrantless wiretapping program, but there is no indication that there was deal-making between Gonzales and Harman on this. Again, as Glenn points out in an update, there's a difference between Gonzo seeing her as a useful because she was supportive of the program and thus intervening in the investigation, and a deal between them or his directly blackmailing her.

So, on to some of the questions still not answered.

  1. The Stein story has Harman offering to "'waddle into' the AIPAC case 'if you think it’ll make a difference,'" but doesn't have the logical follow-up of "if you'll help me out on this." Did Harman actually ask for a "quo" to match her "quid"? Presumably yes, but the article doesn't explicitly say it's there.
  1. Who was the targeted individual, the "the suspected Israeli agent"? Josh suspects it's Haim Saban, and entertainment industry mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party. Marcy suspects it's Naor Gilon, "an Israeli widely suspected of being a spy." This is relevant, as as BTD argues, because Saban--as an American--would have been protected by his first amendment rights under the FISA law that allowed for the wiretaps. If it was Saban, was he targeted by the Bush administration because he was a major donor to Democrats?
  1. Who leaked the story and why now? This one has me baffled, but here's Marcy's take:

First, as it happens the AIPAC trial is in a very active stage right now, with both sides submitting schedules in preparation for a May 6 and 7 CIPA hearing that may end up giving the AIPAC defendants access to classified material with which to defend themselves; if the government faces setbacks in that CIPA hearing, I think it likely that the government gives up the case. If I were a law enforcement guy whose case was crumbling, I might gin up some press attention to convince people of the value of the case.

So I find it interesting that the three sources for this story want to talk about Harman, but not the AIPAC guy on the other end of the call.

The identity of the "suspected Israeli agent" could not be determined with certainty, and officials were extremely skittish about going beyond Harman’s involvement to discuss other aspects of the NSA eavesdropping operation against Israeli targets, which remain highly classified.

Hopefully, we'll learn a lot more about this story in coming days. But there's one thing it argues for loudly and clearly now: investigations into the politicization of the Justice Department under Gonzales, and a full investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program--even if it means some Democrats going down. This story, along with the blockbuster news from last week that the NSA wanted to spy on another member of Congress, reinforces the need to find out just what they were doing with these taps and why.

Update: In an online Q&A this afternoon, Jeff asnwers one of these questions:

Sandy from Brooklyn: Why is all this stuff coming out now?

Jeff Stein: No special reason.

The story was not "planted" on me to influence any other events -- in particular the looming AIPAC trial or things related to the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. I've known about it for some time but just not been able to pull it together until now for various reasons.

Update II: And yeah, the irony of new-found concern over Bush's surveillance program being directed toward members of congress is rich, particularly coming from such a staunch supporter of the program. But maybe it'll be enough to spur some House side investigations, too, so we might as well harness it.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 02:20 PM PDT.

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