Saturday, October 31, 2009

Big Jane at Large

American Scofflaw
A House Democrat who once claimed to "live and breathe security" has been under investigation this year for allegedly promising to use her influence to gain leniency for two "pro-Israeli lobbyists" in exchange for support of her own effort to gain the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Rep. Jane Harman, an eight-term member from Venice, California is one of 30 representatives and several aides being investigated by the House Ethics Committee on issues that include defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to the Post. She has come under the scrutiny of committee investigators due to wiretapped telephone conversations she had in 2005 with an "Israeli operative," in which she allegedly offered to intervene on behalf of the accused lobbyists in exchange for help in getting the coveted committee chair. The Post did not identify the lobbyists or say what they were accused of, but a Los Angeles Times story earlier this year referred to reports that "Harman was heard on a wiretap speaking to a suspected Israeli agent about two AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobbyists accused of illegally passing classified information to foreign officials and reporters."

Harman has said she did not contact either the White House or the Justice Department about the two lobbyists. Federal prosecutors last April dropped charges against the former AIPAC lobbyists, the Times reported, saying that recent court rulings had made it unlikely they could win convictions.

Harman had described the wiretaps as an abuse of government power, but sources told the Washington Post that it was not Harman's phone that was tapped but that of the suspected Israeli agent with whom she conversed. In June of this year, a Justice Department official wrote a letter to Harman's lawyer saying she was "neither a subject nor a target" of a criminal investigation, according to the Post story.

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