Jeff Stein of CQ appears to very upset that people are saying some unkind things about Porter Goss and his friends in the intelligence community. At his blog post from May 1, He rails against “conspiracy theories,” and “wild imaginations,” and complains that people have been misrepresenting what he’s been writing. It's as if people just don’t understand that his piece was supposed to be an anonymous hit job on Jane Harman, and they’ve been twisting it around to make his good friend Porter Goss seem like the bad guy! Stein has had to resort to using ALL CAPS to make people understand how innocent Goss is.
Stein says one writer asked "Why Did Goss finger Jane Harman?"
Stein writes: “Well, the short answer is that he didn't, as was made plain in my stories, which were corroborated by the New York Times and Washington Post.”
“The drift of the latest commentary on the case is that Porter Goss, the former Republican congressman who headed the CIA during 2004-2006, was out to "get" Harman, his Democratic nemesis on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, when he was its chairman.”
"According to my sources and theirs, Goss was duty bound to notify congressional leaders that Harman had become enmeshed in a national security investigation, and that the FBI intended to question her about a wiretapped conversation she had with a suspected Israeli secret agent."
I like the passive voice there. But how did Harman “become enmeshed in a national security investigation?”
According to Stein’s original story on April 19, Harman is said by “former national security officials to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA wiretap directed at alleged Israeli covert action in Washington.”
So some anonymous national security officials may have overheard Harman, and informed the Dept. of Justice, and some other anonymous national security officials told Stein about it.
Maybe some, maybe all, of these anonymous officials work for Porter Goss. But maybe not. After all, he says there were from the NSA, not the CIA. So how did Porter Goss get involved at all?
Stein says that some people are now claiming that “Goss sought approval to pursue an investigation from both former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, but was rebuffed."
This is incorrect, says Stein.
“No. Goss sought clearance merely to NOTIFY then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that Harman had been heard making potentially prosecutable statements on the wiretap.”
Furthermore, of course, the CIA has no power to "investigate" Harman, or anyone in the U.S., in the usual sense of the word.
Goss is an innocent bystander, you see, a stickler for the law who just wanted to notify Denny and Nancy, not the FBI or Justice.
"Over at The Cable, Laura Rozen endowed the CIA director with even further power and motivation to "go after" Harman, writing, "Goss's decision to authorize a FISA warrant that would tap a former fellow lawmaker and rival seems potentially troubling."
"It would indeed be troubling if that were in fact what Goss did. But the problem with Rozen's assertion is that Goss had no power to "authorize a FISA warrant." As Rozen must know, that power belongs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, upon petition by the Justice Department.”
True, but this is highly disengenuous, since an application for a FISA warrant had to go through, and be approved by, Porter Goss on its way to the FISA court, which never turns down an application. (It never got as that far, because Gonzalez didn't pursue it).
But Stein left out of his original story the most interesting part: how did a conversation of an American, “overheard” on an NSA wiretap, initiate a non-investigation investigation? The answer doesn’t have to be sinister, but it might tell us whether proper procedures were followed, what the motivations of the people involved were, and who was “out to get” who.
On April 19, Stein wrote that after Bush DOJ lawyers, that oh-so-trustworthy, ethical crowd, somehow got their hands on the NSA transcripts with Jane Harman, they wanted to start an investigation.
“First, however, they needed the certification of top intelligence officials that Harman’s wiretapped conversations justified a national security investigation."
"Then-CIA Director Porter J. Goss reviewed the Harman transcript and signed off on the Justice Department’s FISA application, two sources said."
"Goss, a former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, deemed the matter particularly urgent because of the high rank of Harman, a Democrat, on the Intelligence panel.”
Ok, so maybe Goss was more than a bystander.
But is it true “they needed the certification of top intelligence officials” to investigate Jane Harman? No, it is not true.
Why couldn’t they get a Title III warrant like normal people? Why did these (also unnamed) officials want to go to a Foreign Intelligence Court to wiretap a Congresswoman? Doesn’t that take the “foreign” out of foreign intelligence??
Anyway, Goss did indeed approve of the FISA wiretap of his former fellow member of Congress, and deemed it “urgent.” Sadly for Goss, though, the investigation never happened.
“[Laura] Rozen further muddies the issue by referring to "DOJ's burgeoning investigation into Harman." Not only was a Justice Department "investigation" of Harman not "burgeoning," it had not even begun, as I and others have reported, based on first-hand sources.“
Gee, I wonder how Laura Rozen got the impression there was a “burgeoning investigation?” Maybe because the whole point of Stein’s article was to imply there was an alleged ironclad case against Harman before Gonzalez got involved and stopped it.
On April 19 he wrote this: “Justice Department officials decided there was sufficient evidence to initiate an FBI investigation of Harman. But at the last minute, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales aborted the plan….”
And this: “Another piece of news is that contrary to reports the Harman investigation was dropped for lack of evidence…”
And this: “Gonzales, President George W. Bush’s top counsel before becoming attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe…”
And this: “As for there being no evidence to support the FBI probe the source with first-hand knowledge of the wiretap transcript called that “bull****.”
And this: ”Justice Department attorneys in the intelligence and public corruption units who read the transcripts decided that Harman had committed a crime...”
And this: “The Justice Department attorneys were prepared to pursue a case against Harman…”
And this: “Pelosi and Hastert were never notified and the investigation of Harman was effectively dead.”
Sure sounds like an investigation to me.
Heck, even in the May 1 post blasting Laura Rozen, where he writes, “The Justice Department was investigating secret Israeli operations in the United States, not Harman. (And now even that investigation has evidently come up empty).”
He also writes:
“Back in 2005, however, what the congresswoman was overheard saying to the wiretap target was troubling enough to prompt an investigation of her.”
Stein’s original desperation to imply that there was an investigation of Harman, and then later deny it heatedly, is odd.
Stein concludes, rather defensively:
“Everything else written about hidden agendas in this case is speculation, which, by the looks of instant commentary on the AIPAC case, will undoubtedly continue to take the place of reporting on this sordid affair.”
Indeed, it is speculation and it sordid. Since we have no idea who Stein’s sources are, all we can safely say is that we are getting selective and I might add, patently illegal, leaks from probable-NSA wiretaps, overhearing people they weren’t even investigating, clearly designed to make it look like Rep. Harman did something when no investigation was ever started, or if it was, didn’t go very far. And Harman never did get to Chair that Committee.
Quite frankly, Stein seems pretty desperate to cover for Porter Goss and the other Gosslings, almost to the point of advocacy. Which is interesting.
On April 19 Stein wrote:
"The first director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, opposed an FBI investigation of Harman, according to officials familiar with his thinking, and left it to Goss or FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III , to decide what to do."
Goss was head of the CIA. As Stein correctly points out, he should have no role at all in a criminal investigation of an American.
So why did the director of national intelligence leave it up to the head of the CIA “what to do” about a Democratic Congresswoman?