Harman: Americans Should Be Worried About Wiretapping

Posted April 21, 2009 at 1:24pm

Looking to divert attention away from reports that she colluded with a suspected Israeli agent to advance her standing in Congress, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said it should be of concern to all Americans that her conversations were wiretapped.

In an interview on MSNBC, Harman denied allegations that she tried to squelch a federal spy case against two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in return for help lobbying Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the gavel of the House Intelligence Committee.

What people should really be worried about, Harman said, is that federal intelligence officials allegedly wiretapped her conversations with AIPAC officials, in secret and without a warrant.

“I’m just very disappointed that my country — I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years,— said Harman. “I’m one Member of Congress who may be caught up in it, but I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. But I’m thinking of others who have no bully pulpit and may not be aware, as I was not, that right now, somewhere, someone’s listening in on their conversations, and they’re innocent Americans.—

Harman added, “This isn’t about me. This is about any Member of Congress.—

She noted that she was fielding phone calls from other lawmakers this morning who are similarly concerned that their conversations with advocacy groups may have been picked up on a wiretap.

In terms of AIPAC, Harman said she has had “a long friendship— with the pro-Israel lobbying group and never had a “need to cut some deal— with them in order to advance her position in the House. Formerly the ranking member on Intelligence, Harman was passed over for the chairmanship by Pelosi in 2006.

“It was certainly no secret in 2005 and 06 that I hoped to be named the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. … I believed I had been promised that in writing by the Democratic leadership and I was disappointed not to get it, but lots of folks contacted me and asked whether they could be helpful in some way. No deals were cut with any groups, for any reason, ever,— said the California Democrat.

Harman said that last week was the first time she “had any clue— that she may have been secretly wiretapped by the National Security Agency during conversations with pro-Israel advocacy groups in 2005 and 2006.

“I’ve never had a clue this was happening. I’ve never been informed by the Justice Department that I was under investigation,— she said.

Harman penned a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder earlier Tuesday to demand that the transcripts from those wiretapped conversations be made public and urged him to investigate instances where other Members of Congress were subject to such surveillance. The letter, and MSNBC interview, came in response to a Congressional Quarterly report alleging Harman engaged in a quid pro quo with a suspected Israeli spy.