Rogue Agents Tipped Pelosi To Harman Wiretap

“Intelligence officials, angry that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had blocked an FBI investigation into Democratic Rep. Jane Harman’s interactions with a suspected Israeli agent, tipped off Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, that Harman had been picked up on a court-ordered National Security Agency wiretap targeting the agent,” CQ’s Jeff Stein reports. “In doing so, the officials flouted an order by Gonzales not to inform Pelosi, three former national security officials said.”

Surely, whether to pursue an investigation is the prerogative of the AG, not bureaucrats in the intelligence community.  The details of the wiretap were classified and Pelosi had no need to know, meaning the leakers committed felonies. [Or maybe not. See update]

UPDATEMike Soraghan, Susan Crabtree, Jared Allen, reporting for The Hill, connect some important dots.

This means the Speaker knew about the wiretap when she decided to stop Harman from becoming chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee.

It also blunts Harman’s (D-Calif.) allegation that her eavesdroppers acted improperly.

Pelosi said it was a “few years ago, maybe three years ago” when she was informed of the recording and noted that leadership is informed when a member is caught on a wiretap. The Speaker added she did not tell Harman of her knowledge because the information was classified.  “When you have a member of Congress who is overheard in a wiretap … the leadership is informed, and that happened at that time,” Pelosi said on Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “It was not my position to raise it with Jane Harman … All they said is that she was wiretapped.”

It’s unclear whether “leadership is informed when a member is caught on a wiretap” is a custom, a legal requirement, or inartful phrasing on Pelosi’s part.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum observes, “CIA is engaged in some pretty serious message sending against people they don’t like.  My guess: I don’t know how Harman is going to weather all this, but I don’t think it’s going to turn out well for the CIA.  They may have gone a couple of steps too far this time.”

In OTB’s comments below, Bernard Finel counters, “If I were an FBI agent and I saw that kind of borderline criminal behavior from my boss, I’d be tempted to play whistleblower as well. Frankly, we could have used more whistleblowers during the past 8 years, not fewer.”   I’m not unsympathetic to that view.   But I lean more toward’s Drum’s instinct that it’s horribly bad to have our bureaucratic functionaries deciding to use national security secrets to settle political scores.

We haven’t heard to last of this one.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Surely, whether to pursue an investigation is the prerogative of the AG

    Ideally, yes. In the case of the Bush admin, which pretty much abandoned the rule of law, perhaps so clear. Once more example of the inherent danger of placing politics, policy and individuals above the law.

  2. Of the people, by the people, for the people — it was good while it lasted.

  3. Except that Gonzo was planning to use the info to blackmail Harman to publicly support the warrantless wiretapping program. When your chief law enforcement officer is behaving like a mafia don, it corrodes everything.

    I think, maybe, Pelosi had both a need and a right to know that one of her members was compromised and potentially being blackmailed.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Except that Gonzo was planning to use the info to blackmail Harman to publicly support the warrantless wiretapping program.

    What evidence do we have for that? I read the report as simply saying that Harman was on the team and he didn’t want to piss her off.

    I think, maybe, Pelosi had both a need and a right to know that one of her members was compromised and potentially being blackmailed.

    That may be right. The update from “The Hill” makes the nature of what was disclosed sound much less problematic. I gathered from Stein’s report that this was a backdoor sabotaging of DOJ by disgruntled agents.

  5. What evidence do we have for that?

    I don’t see any possible way of interpreting his decision to forego an investigation as anything other than a quid-pro-quo for her support. I mean, even if he didn’t plan to blackmail her, he was avoiding an investigation of someone solely because she was politically convenient. That is almost as bad.

    Let’s not be naive here. Gonzo is the same guy who went to John Ashcroft’s hospital room to try to get him to override the legal judgment of Jack Goldsmith and James Comey. Gonzo was and is nothing more than a Bush consigliere — with no more morals or scruples than any other mob lawyer.

    You really want to defend the position that “we don’t investigate our friends”?

    If I were an FBI agent and I saw that kind of borderline criminal behavior from my boss, I’d be tempted to play whistleblower as well. Frankly, we could have used more whistleblowers during the past 8 years, not fewer.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, just which laws specifically is it the Bush administration violated? List them alphabetically. Name the law and the violation specifically. People like you make extremely stupid statements and have nothing to back them up but there opinion. That is the same BS that applies to Bush lied. No he did not. Check the facts. Stop getting your info from DK and DU. Are you really Keith Obermann?

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I cannot wait until disgruntled agents of CIA start releasing information about some of the things Obama the Kenyan is up to. Or what the results of what happened as a result of the actions Bush took in defense of this country as he was sworn to do.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Note that Josh Marshall suspects, though is uncertain, that the suspected Israeli agent is an American who is a supporter of the Democratic Party and Israel. If that’s the case, then it sounds like an investigation that would have been about politics.

  9. sam says:

    I cannot wait until disgruntled agents of CIA start releasing information about some of the things Obama the Kenyan is up to

    .

    That’ll be right after the FBI releases info on Ragshaft the Rastafarian.

  10. FranklinTest says:

    I cannot wait until disgruntled agents of CIA start releasing information about some of the things Obama the Kenyan is up to.

    Thank you. I was wondering if you had any credibility and you confirmed my suspicions.

  11. Kevin Drum observes, “CIA is engaged in some pretty serious message sending against people they don’t like. My guess: I don’t know how Harman is going to weather all this, but I don’t think it’s going to turn out well for the CIA. They may have gone a couple of steps too far this time.”

    Why Mr. Drum? Because the person hurt by the leaks wasn’t a Republican? As I recall, it is just a couple of steps from one side of the aisle to the other in the House of Representatives. Apparently some leaks are more equal than others in Progressiveland.

    I am most interested to see how whistle blowers are treated by the White House, the leadership in Congress and Big Media the next eight years.

    Perhaps a little OT, but I can’t wait for the Truth Commission to tell me what it is we are supposed to think about this. Orwellian is too often used these days, but it seems justified in this case.

  12. sam says:

    @Charles

    Orwellian is too often used these days, but it seems justified in this case.

    Charles, what’s the antecedent of ‘this case’ in the quote?

  13. The Truth Commission. Maybe we need a Truth Czar or a Secretary of Truth as a cabinet level position to institutionalize it. Were this Great Britain it would, of course, be a Ministry of Truth.

    My apologies if I left to much inference to the reader.

  14. sam says:

    My apologies if I left to much inference to the reader.

    S’Ok. It was the ending ‘this’ in the previous sentence that caused the pause.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    I’m just curious…which CIA leaks against Republicans were viewed as just peachy keen by the left…