The Cable

Six links, and a couple thoughts on the Harman case

Running now. But six quick links to reports on developments in the Jane Harman-surveilled case, followed by a couple thoughts:

NYT/Politico: Pelosi now remembers being briefed on Harman wiretap.

WP piece says she was caught on FBI not NSA surveillance. 

LAT: The real story behind the faux Harman scandal. "Now the question is: Who would drag Harman, Pelosi and Saban into this faux scandal to prevent such an exit?"

Roll Call: Hoyer to look into whether should be investigation of whether lawmakers wiretaped.

CQ: Excerpts from another wiretapped conversation of Harman.

JTA: If the case is dropped, what happens to Larry Franklin?

1) Per the question the LAT article asks: What was the motive of the people who leaked the transcripts of the Harman surveillance? 

Seems to me there were at least two: a) to keep the AIPAC case from being tossed out by showing how much the public still doesn't know about what was uncovered in the investigation. By someone or someones (identified in the reports as ex national security officials) invested in the case. b) A source or second source (also ex national security official) with some serious anti Harman animus, and knowledge of the case.

Keep in mind a poorly kept secret from the journalism trade: sometimes a named source in the piece making one point on the record is making an off record point saying something they wouldn't want on the record. Former official A on the record: So and so is a fabulous person ... Off record, you wouldn't believe what so-and-so did, or whatever.

2) Per the Roll Call/Hoyer piece: There are lots of reasons to think that the person who was being targeted for surveillance when he communicated with Harman and she came on the FBI's radar screen was a senior figure at a pro Israel lobbying group. It is not hard to believe that that person whoever he/she is talks to lots of lawmakers. And that all of those conversations were tapped, since that figure, Mr. X, seems to have been under years long surveillance as a suspected "Israeli agent," and who knows, may still be.

(One question that occurs to me reading the above is, if Mr. X presumably talks to and has alliances with lots of lawmakers, why did Mr. X specifically allegedly seek the help of Harman on the case? And it occurs because she was the perceived ally on the intelligence committee, and this was a counterintelligence case. But why not approach an ally on the Judiciary committee which would seemingly have oversight over the Justice Department and the case? Or were others' help on other committees also sought? And did some of them too become subjects for a time of FISA-authorized surveillance as part of this counterintelligence probe? A former intelligence official told me that then DCI Goss certified several FISA warrants in national security cases when FBI director Robert Mueller was for whatever reason unavailable. Perhaps unavailable, another source suggested, because Mueller would not touch this. Until the law establishing ODNI was established, my understanding is, only three people could certify such FISA requests: the FBI director, the DCI, and nat'l security advisor.)

(Another question. Say Mr. X is a senior member of a bipartisan pro Israel lobby organization, seeking influence with the administration on a sensitive legal matter during a highly partisan Republican administration with a Republican majority Congress. Don't you think some of the allies' help he sought were Republican? Were their FISA warrants signed off on when they were intercepted talking to Mr. X discussing the case and how they might help? And if so, by whom? And if not, why not?) 

3)  If they didn't have authorization, which seems unlikely but who knows, the former national security officials who leaked portions of the classified transcripts of wiretapped surveillance of Jane Harman that came out in media reports this week would seem to have technically committed a crime that looks to be in the same family of legal violations that got the former AIPAC lobbyists indicted in the first place - unauthorized disclosure of classified information. However different their perceived agendas and the politics of their perceived motives may seem to be. The irony.

The Cable

Historian Michael Oren considered for Israel's ambassador to Washington, reports say (UPDATED)

Michael Oren, a senior fellow and scholar of Middle Eastern diplomatic and military history at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's choice to be his ambassador to Washington, sources in Israel and Washington say.

(Richard Silverstein and Politico's Ben Smith earlier reported this.)

Oren, a New Jersey native who emigrated to Israel in the 1970s, is a published historian and contributing editor to The New Republic. He spoke to NPR during Israel's recent Gaza campaign in his capacity as a reservist serving as a spokesman for the Israeli military.

Hearing the appointment was a done deal, a plugged-in Washington Middle East hand said Netanyahu's choice for the key post of a historian with strong ties to the neoconservatives who never previously served in any diplomatic function was slightly puzzling. "Not sure Netanyahu understands the changes in D.C.," he said.

Other recent Israeli government appointments have not done much to ease awkward relations between the new Obama and Netanyahu administrations. As previously reported, Netanyahu's long time advisor and choice to head his national security cabinet, Uzi Arad, has written several letters to try to resolve U.S. counterintelligence concerns that prevented him from receiving a U.S. visa two years ago. JTA recently reported that Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has chosen another Israeli official connected to the AIPAC case, Naor Gilon, to serve as his chief of staff.

(Meantime, the Washington Post reports Tuesday that prosecutors are considering dropping charges against two former AIPAC lobbyists.)

Netanyahu was not first in line among Middle Eastern leaders to get face time with Obama at the White House. That went to Jordan's King Abdullah II, who held meetings with Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today.

But the White House said Netanyahu will get a meeting in the next few weeks. Obama will invite Middle Eastern leaders, including Netanyahu, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for separate meetings in the coming weeks, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. The series of meetings, Gibbs said, is part of the Obama administration's effort to "achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

UPDATE: Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth writes Wednesday, that the Oren appointment is being considered but not a done deal:

A new source of tension has arisen between the Obama administration and Israel, this time concerning the decision of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to appoint Michael Oren as Israel's ambassador to Washington.  A senior source close to the administration said last night: "In light of the harsh criticism that Oren directed at Obama in the election campaign, appointing him as ambassador is an odd choice."

   During the campaign, Oren published an article in which he tried to answer the question who would be better for Israel as a US president: Obama or John McCain.  Obama's aides said that in the guise of an academic study, Oren conveyed his personal opinions and published things that portrayed Obama as non-supportive of Israel.  Oren wrote that the Obama administration would present a completely new initiative based on zero tolerance for construction in settlements and roadblocks, an initiative that would be founded on the assessment that the road to Baghdad and Tehran passes through Bethlehem and Nablus.

   Oren wrote further that McCain would not disrupt the United States' relations with Israel, whereas Obama could be expected to deviate from the alliance ....

Oren is close to a series of figures in the previous Republican administration, and has held meetings with figures in the campaign staff of former Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain. ... Oren's associates say that he is a very charismatic person, who is also close to many Democratic senators.  They say that Obama himself declared that he had read Oren's book.  ...

   Meanwhile, sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau confirmed that Oren was one of the candidates for the post but not the only one, and clarified that no decision had been made.  Netanyahu met this week with one of the candidates, Dr. Dore Gold, and said that he still considered him a leading candidate for the post.  Additional candidates are Zalman Shoval and Alon Pinkas.

More from JTA, which says Oren would be honored but hasn't yet been asked.