No Good Angle

You know how sometimes a news story shows up that’s kind of like a car wreck, no matter how you look at it? So amazingly yuck that even bloggers who have been shamefully negligent of the big (and funny) news stories in the last few weeks just have to say something? Yeah. So let’s talk about California’s Rep. Jane Harman, and the small problem she’s having right now.

Harman, of CA’s 36th District, was caught on tape by an NSA wiretap, “telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would press the Justice Department to go easy on two AIPAC officers accused of espionage-related charges and that this agent pledged, in return, to use his or her influence to help Harman become head of the House intelligence committee,” according to CQ Politics. Yikes. Did you catch that? She offered assistance on espionage charges in exchange for help getting onto the House intelligence committee. There are a number of intelligence-related jokes just waiting to be made here, so why don’t we all just take a moment and think those quietly to ourselves.

Unfortunately, the story continues, as CQ’s coverage also alleges that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales halted any investigation into Harman’s activities, because he needed her support in defending the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Irony alert!

I am no major AIPAC fan, but this is bad news all around. Not only does this kind of thing feed the lunatic fringe, which, in a post-Madoff world, needs little stoking to begin with, but it’s depressing as hell to see yet another manifestation of politics trumping reason, common sense, the law, and any sense of propriety. Also, the NSA was wiretapping a member of Congress. That they found something gross is almost beside the point. (Kind of like saying that any “intelligence” derived justifies waterboarding two suspects 266 times.)

So Rep. Harman, shame on you! (It should be noted that Harman is denying the allegations.) The one good thing that might come of all this would be a renewed sense of outrage in Congress that the U.S. government spied on its own citizens. It can happen to you, too—and maybe it already did! So let’s make a deal: if Congress can agree that FISA loopholes need to be shut, then maybe we won’t have to gawk at their PR train-wreck moments with such an undercurrent of self-righteousness. Who’s with me?

–Mel Weiss