Yes, but, but...
On Sunday, CQ reported that the NSA had wiretapped Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), listening in on a call in which she apparently offered a quid pro quo to a lobbyist group. Harman has vigorously denied the reports. Today, she appeared on MSNBC to express her shock and outrage that her phone calls were listened to, saying she was "disappointed" that the U.S. could have allowed such "a gross abuse of power":[snip]
HARMAN: 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. I'm one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, but I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. I'm thinking about 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's anger seems a bit disingenuous, considering that she was one of the earliest supporters of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.
It's understandable that ordinary Americans like Harman and other members of Congress would be horrified and want an immediate investigation, which is actually what happened when the ACLU and the EFF filed suit and demonstrated that millions of innocent Americans had been the victims of illegal surveillance. But Jane Harman thought that their right to know was trumped by the demands of national security, and voted to give retroactive immunity to the telecoms.
I may be late to the party here, but I. . . I think she may have been right. I'm worried that such a program might be essential to national security, and that its disclosure might damage critical intelligence capabilities. After all, the program under which Harman was spied upon was legal and necessary, as opposed to the people in the ACLU and EFF cases, who were the victims of illegal surveillance. I'm -- well, I'm afraid that if we start looking too closely at these things, gosh darn it, the terrorists are gonna know what we're up to, and then they win.
I know because a wise woman once said so herself:
"You should not be talking about that here," she scolded me in a whisper. "They don't even know about that," she said, gesturing to her aides, who were now looking on at the conversation with obvious befuddlement. "The Times did the right thing by not publishing that story," she continued. I wanted to understand her position. What intelligence capabilities would be lost by informing the public about something the terrorists already knew -- namely, that the government was listening to them? I asked her. Harman wouldn’t bite. "This is a valuable program, and it would be compromised,' she said. I tried to get into some of the details of the program and get a better understanding of why the administration asserted that it couldn't be operated within the confines of the courts. Harman wouldn't go there either. "This is a valuable program," she repeated.
In fact, she found it soooo valuable that she pressured the Times not to publish that expose of Bush's warrentless wiretapping:
Y'know, with Dems like this, who needs Cons?
As I noted here yesterday, one key revelation in that big CQ Politics scoop is that Harman may have privately tried to kill the story in 2004. Yesterday Times executive editor Bill Keller said that Harman hadn’t spoken to him or influenced his decision.
But now Times spokesperson Catherine Mathis sends over a more detailed statement from Keller explaining what really happened:
Congresswoman Harman spoke to Washington Bureau Chief Phil Taubman in late October or early November, 2004, apparently at the request of General Hayden. She urged that The Times not publish the story. She did not speak to me, and I don’t remember her being a significant factor in my decision. In 2005, when we were getting ready to publish, Phil met with a group of congressional leaders familiar with the eavesdropping program, including Ms. Harman. They all argued that The Times should not publish. The Times published the story a few days later.
Wow. So Dem Rep Harman appears to have worked behind the scenes to dissuade publication of a blockbuster expose about Bush that could have put her own party’s nominee in the White House and changed the history of the last four years. And, according to Keller, she apparently did this at the request of Michael Hayden, Bush’s National Security Agency chief.