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Jane Harman (D-CA) Sells Favors to Foreign Spy?

9:52 AM, Apr 20, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Congressional Quarterly reports that Representative Jane Harman was caught on tape promising to lobby for reduced charges against two accused spies, in exchange for help securing the chairmanship of the House Committee on Intelligence:

Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman's help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."

According to CQ, this conversation was recorded in late 2005, under a wiretap authorized by the FISA court, and targeted at Israeli spies engaged in covert activities in Washington. The FBI initiated an investigation into Harman, which was dropped because of Attorney General Garza's concern about losing a critical ally in Congress.

According to Ben Smith, the supposed 'Israeli agent' to whom Harman spoke is Haim Saban, a very generous donor to Democratic causes and candidates. Both Saban and his wife are recorded as having made donations both to Pelosi and Harman.

The CQ report is vague on one critical point: whether Speaker Pelosi knew about the deal between Harman and Saban. Jeff Stein's story indicates that Gonzales stopped the investigation before Congressional leaders were informed about the incident. It also says however, that the incident helped keep Harman from becoming Intel Committee Chair or CIA Director. So did Pelosi know, or not?

Even if she was never officially informed, it would not be surprising if Pelosi knew. Saban is well-known within Democratic circles, and it was no secret that Harman had many supporters lobbying for her to get the Intel Committee gavel.