Scandalplex: Which Democrat gets House Intel Committee chair: AIPAC's Harman or Ghorbanifar's buddy Reyes?

The House Intel Committee Chairmanship is the prize: We have three choices: Rep. Alcee Hastings, a corrupt judge, Rep. Jane Harman, the right-wing Israel lobby's close friend, or Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who apparently thinks notorious Iranian schemer and Iran-Contra front guy Manucher Ghorbanifar is a nifty dude. Compounding matters, Hastings is black, Reyes is Hispanic and Harman is Jewish (and married to the Harman Kardon speaker guy). Setting aside 'identity politics,' who's involved with all this?

...The guy who invented the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is involved. Plus: My money is on David Wurmser or his wife Meyrav getting indicted as a Mossad officer involved in the Franklin scandal. Best guess, seems kinda obvious. Onward we go, into murky matters a-plenty.

The widely publicized battle between Hoyer and Murtha last week was spun all out of size by the media, as priggish establishment guys like Dana Milbank gave us popcorn for a bemusing spectacle of donkeys eating their own. Monopolizing cable TV imagery was a mysteriously leaked video of Murtha turning down a bribe from the old days. The video should have been under lock and key at the Justice Department, but it seems the old hands are still out playing information warfare, with DOJ surveillance material evidence as a bargaining chip for use in the American Spectator.

I suspect this might set the tone for a lot of what's to come in 2007, as the knives come out in Washington for a whole collision of international espionage, scandals and bullshit. The Republicans have to paint the Dems as corrupt and disloyal, and with the FBI all over town and various spy scandals simmering below the surface, everyone in the Democratic Party involved with intelligence matters is going to be put in the squeeze. Foreign lobbyists, "agents of influence," the globalization of K Street, it's all sort of gone out of control the last few years. A lot of money has been slush-funded around Washington, and the Democrats are not clean in this game, though of course, without having any levers of power the last few years, they can't have been too rich of pickings anyway.

The central venue of these matters could wind up being the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which have the onerous task of deciphering the operations of foreign governments against the United States while balancing international alliances, trading blocs and the other affairs of state below the surface. Complicating matters, political appointees pressure CIA analysts to spoof intelligence with the intent of deceiving congressional politicians – as with the pre-war Iraq intelligence. Even on the Intelligence Committee, Democrats were spoon-fed morsels of unsubstantiated garbage about Saddam's weapons. Only now do we find evidence that Congress was manipulated – and no one has paid the price.

These Intelligence Committees have a lot of explaining to do. WMD is just the surface of their horrible problems, as spy penetrations of American government agencies have gone thoroughly unexamined. (Turkish spy in the FBI Melek Can Dickerson, anyone?) With Rep. Jane Harman as Democratic leader, the hardcore of these matters has totally been brushed under the rug, and Harman, while posturing as a "centrist" in the elaborate nest of thinktank bullshit that passes for our foreign policy, has instead let one huge intelligence scandal after another go wafting past with nary a word. Harman has a lot of explaining to do.

Iraq and Iran have been the two leading concerns, but such affairs as the AIPAC espionage scandal a more awkward embarrassing one. To recap: Lawrence "Larry" Franklin, a Defense Department analyst with top clearance and staffer at the famed intel-spoofing Office of Special Plans, passed classified information to top officials of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, who in turn contacted officials of the Israeli Embassy tasked to intelligence - Mossad officers, more or less. The first time Franklin was caught by the FBI, he literally wandered up to the AIPAC officials in a restaurant – AIPAC was already under surveillance – and the FBI agents must have been shocked to see this nerd simply come cold-calling with secrets. The AIPAC guys shrewdly declined to take any material, and instead Franklin verbally conveyed the innermost secret Pentagon deliberations on Iran policy.

The FBI used their evidence of this incident to flip Franklin, and he helped them catch the AIPAC guys with planted intel that FBI wiretaps traced moving back to the Israeli embassy. A serious matter of counter-intelligence, and pretty classic espionage work, really. The FBI Counter-Intelligence section is the gatekeeper to a whole mess of fucking problems, and what happens to them in the next couple years is going to tell the tale of whether the Empire survives in its current form, pretty much.

What of Rep. Harman? Well basically, as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Harman had all the keys to the castle a Dem could possibly have. In many cases, only her and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the outgoing Republican Committee chair, got the top-shelf intelligence. So it was Rep. Harman that fate chose to convey the details of AIPAC's operations from the FBI (and CIA?) to the rest of the Democratic Party leadership. The problem is that Harman is a hard-line supporter of AIPAC and the general right-wing Israeli political agenda, and so it appears she helped cover for AIPAC's crimes, and it seems this has offended Pelosi. Pelosi's definitely pissed, judging from broad hints dropped in the Washington Post:

Another question is whether Pelosi will appoint Rep. Jane Harman, currently the top Democrat on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to head the prestigious panel. Pelosi has nursed a well-publicized grudge against her fellow California Democrat because she believes Harman has not been a tough enough critic of President Bush on security matters, while using her ties to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee to lobby for the chairmanship.

TIME Magazine also got into this, reporting Harman may now be snagged in the upcoming Larry Franklin trial itself. Here is the TIME story, for your edification:

Exclusive: Feds Probe a Top Democrat's Relationship with AIPAC

The Department of Justice is investigating whether Rep. Jane Harman and the pro-Israel group worked together to get her reappointed as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee


By TIMOTHY J. BURGER/WASHINGTON

Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government.

The sources tell TIME that the investigation by Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has simmered out of sight since about the middle of last year, is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman's behalf. Harman said Thursday in a voicemail message that any investigation of — or allegation of improper conduct by — her would be "irresponsible, laughable and scurrilous." On Friday, Washington GOP super lawyer Ted Olson left voicemail messages underscoring that Harman has no knowledge of any investigation. "Congresswoman Harman has asked me to follow up on calls you've had," Olsosn said. "She is not aware of any such investigation, does not believe that it is occurring, and wanted to make sure that you and your editors knew that as far as she knows, that's not true... . No one from the Justice Department has contacted her." It is not, however, a given that Harman would know that she is under investigation. In a follow-up phone call from California, Olson said Harman hired him this morning because she takes seriously the possibility of a media report about an investigation of her, even though she does not believe it herself.

A spokesman for AIPAC, a powerful Washington-based organization with more than 100,000 members across the U.S., denied any wrongdoing by the group and stressed that it is not taking sides in regards to the committee assignment. Spokespersons for Justice and the FBI declined to comment. The case is a spin-off of a probe that has already led to charges under the Espionage Act against two AIPAC lobbyists, whose case is still pending, and to a 12 and a half year prison sentence for former Defense Intelligence Agency official Lawrence A. Franklin. Franklin pleaded guilty a year ago to three felony counts involving improper disclosure and handling of classified information about the Middle East and terrorism to the two lobbyists, who in turn are accused of passing it on to a journalist and a foreign government, widely believed to be Israel. The two lobbyists, who have denied any wrongdoing but were dismissed by AIPAC in April of 2005, were indicted on felony counts of conspiring with government officials to receive classified information they were not authorized to have access to and providing national defense information to people not entitled to receive it.

Around mid-2005, the investigation expanded to cover aspects of Harman's quiet but aggressive campaign to persuade House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to reappoint her to the prestigious position on the House intel panel. The alleged campaign to support Harman for the leadership post came amid media reports that Pelosi had soured on her California colleague and might name Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, himself a major supporter of Israel, to succeed Harman.

The sources say the probe also involves whether, in exchange for the help from AIPAC, Harman agreed to help try to persuade the Administration to go lighter on the AIPAC officials caught up in the ongoing investigation. If that happened, it might be construed as an illegal quid-pro-quo, depending on the context of the situation. But the sources caution that there has been no decision to charge anyone and that it is unclear whether Harman and AIPAC acted on the idea.

AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton denies that the organization has engaged in any improper conduct. "Both Congressman Hastings and Congresswoman Harman are strong leaders on issues of importance to the pro-Israel community and would be exemplary Democratic leaders for the House intelligence committee," Dorton said. "AIPAC would never engage in a quid-pro-quo in relation to a federal investigation or any federal matter and the notion that it would do so is preposterous. AIPAC is not aware that the Justice Department is looking into issues involving the intelligence committee, and has not been asked any questions or contacted by the government on this matter, but certainly would cooperate with any inquiry." Dorton added that AIPAC has previously been assured that the organization and its current employees are not being investigated. In this same investigation, the Justice Department has previously suggested that AIPAC had questionable motives in trying to help a valued government contact remain in a sensitive national security post. The Justice Department alleges in its indictment of Franklin that he asked one of the two AIPAC lobbyists to "put in a good word" for him in seeking assignment to the National Security Council. The document says the AIPAC official noted that such a job would put Franklin "by the elbow of the President" and said he would "do what I can."

AIPAC lists praise from Pelosi among a series of quotes from world leaders on its web site: "The special relationship between the United States and Israel is as strong as it is because of your (AIPAC's) fidelity to that partnership..." But congressional sources say Pelosi has been infuriated by pressure from some major donors lobbying on behalf of Harman. In a story touching on tensions between Pelosi and Harman, an alternative California publication, LA Weekly, reported in May that Harman "had some major contributors call Pelosi to impress upon her the importance of keeping Jane in place. According to these members, this tactic, too, hasn't endeared Harman to Pelosi."

A congressional source tells TIME that the lobbbying for Harman has included a phone call several months ago from entertainment industry billionaire and major Democratic party contributor Haim Saban. A Saban spokeswoman said he could not be reached for comment. A phone call pushing for a particular member's committee assignment might be unwelcome, but it would not normally be illegal on its own. And it is unclear whether Saban — who made much of his fortune with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers children's franchise — knew that lobbying Pelosi might be viewed by others as part of a larger alleged plan.

Saban has donated at least $3,000 to Harman's campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records, and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which he sponsors at the prestigious Brookings Institution, boasts Harman among its biggest fans. "When the Saban Center talks, I listen," Harman said at a Saban Center briefing in February on U.S. strategy in Iraq. Harman quipped that, in order to attend the session at Brookings, she had to "blow off" a senior intelligence official's appearance before a House committee.

If Harman gains control of the Committee, she will probably continue to exaggerate the nuclear threat from Iran in accordance with the hawk domestic political strategy - and that intersects with the Israeli intelligence community's need to manipulate American perceptions of Iran. Harman would probably not be a pawn of AIPAC, but she would certainly give them the benefit of friendly top-level political access that she has provided them with for years. (and she would probably be more likely to lock out the Israeli peace movement, I would bet) And would she be aggressive in protecting American weapons technologies? Given recent Israeli tech transfers to China and others, not too likely. That story by Jim Lobe includes the Mossad procuring PROMIS - nifty spy stuff all around:

It would be a mistake to see Franklin as the chief target of the current investigation, according to sources, but rather he should be viewed as one piece of a much broader puzzle.

The Corrupt Judge: Rep. Alcee Hastings was the primary alternative to Harman, the Dem's number-two. But he got thrown out of a federal judgeship for taking bribes, and therefore would appear a bad choice in terms of PR. If the bribes are merely the tip of the iceberg, he could be easily blackmailed by any foreign power, I would wager. It would appear Hastings is already finished for the chair because the Congressional Black Caucus will get other goodies.



What about Reyes and Manucher Ghorbanifar?
The apparent final option for House Intel chair is one Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who has gotten bopped in the last couple days with news that he participated in secret meetings in Paris with Manucher Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar is kind of like the Jimmy Hoffa of the Middle East, an almost mythical arms dealer and information peddler extraordinaire who operates with impunity all over the place. The CIA hates Ghorbanifar, to be sure, as he sold them all kinds of deceptive bullshit in the 1980s and wanted to get paid for it. He was a point man for the Iranian side in Iran-Contra, and he and Michael Ledeen are great, great friends. The CIA issued a 'burn notice' that no one in the Agency should talk to this cat, ever.

So when silly Republican congressmen want to play at being badass spies, Ghorbanifar is all too happy to feed them a bunch of enticing bullshit for money – and sow the seeds of a U.S.-Iranian war he would profit from vastly. The recently defeated Republican Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania was apparently entranced by Ghorbanifar, and went public trying to get him back on the CIA payroll. Weldon was a "loose cannon" on intelligence matters, and quite convinced that the Able Danger military intelligence system exposed the 9/11 hijackers before the attacks but got dropped due to the interference of Pentagon lawyers. He also tried to mount an WMD search expedition to Iraq to go check out some coordinates someone gave him.

And in 2003, Reyes tagged along with Weldon to meet Ghorbanifar in a hotel in Paris. (Franklin, too, was at a well-documented secret meeting with Ledeen and Ghorbanifar in December 2001, but that is yet another funny story). This raises the question of whether Reyes, like Weldon, is yet another lightweight dupe for foreign spymaster bullshit. To be honest, if I were in Reyes position, I would have informed the appropriate State Department office that monitors these contacts, and then going to see what on earth Ghorbanifar was selling.

To Reyes credit, it appears this is exactly what he did. According to reporter Laura Rozen, the CIA thoroughly checked the hotel area and made sure they weren't going to get kidnapped, and the meeting went forth in a quiet corner of the restaurant.

In sum total: The FBI has the evidence already. The shape of spy scandals to get exposed depends on who runs the Intelligence committees, and Reyes seems like the only good choice. The Democrats are not clean of these scandals, and Republican Hoekstra is probably going to have his revenge with Harman by spilling bits of the AIPAC matter (mainly because Harman noisily leaked material from the Duke Cunningham corruption case).

Our only hope are representatives that put America first, above all. A staggering amount of money is getting stolen from the U.S., and our best weapons technologies are flying out the door. This republic has only its interests and assets to defend from the rest of the world, and we require sound, decent leadership that can clean our political systems of pernicious foreign spies and penetration operations. A new, non-partisan political basis in favor of proper counter-intelligence is seriously required, and we are fucked unless that happens.

Now a couple bits from the Wayne Madsen Report - taken with many grains of salt: interesting but not guaranteed information: includes a Sibel Edmonds guest column:

November 17/18/19, 2006 -- Federal law enforcement sources report that a senior retired Mossad officer is the subject of a sealed indictment in the Larry Franklin-America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) espionage case. The retired officer, a former terrorism adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, worked under a relatively new type of Israeli intelligence cover in Washington -- association with a think tank, in this case the neo-conservative Hudson Institute. The subject of the sealed indictment and other Israeli agents using U.S. think tank cover operate as handlers for spies like Franklin and others.

November 17/18/19, 2006 -- Capitol Hill sources report that Jane Harman, the ranking Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), whose chairmanship is opposed by Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, attempted to interfere in the Justice Department's investigation of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for espionage.

Harman's AIPAC activities have sunk her chances to be HPSCI chair.

Harman reportedly agreed to work with Republican chairman Peter Hoekstra to avoid an investigation of the cooked up pre-war intelligence on Iraq in return for the Bush administration going easy on the investigation of AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, both later indicted for receiving highly classified documents from Israeli Pentagon spy Larry Franklin.

The word is that Harman's involvement with AIPAC has torpedoed her chances of becoming HPSCI chair with California's two Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both weighing in with Pelosi against Harman becoming chairman.

November 17/18/19, 2006 -- Guest Column

THE HIGHJACKING OF A NATION

Part 1: The Foreign Agent Factor


By Sibel Edmonds

In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned that America must be constantly awake against “the insidious wiles of foreign influence…since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Today, foreign influence, that most baneful foe of our republican government, has its tentacles entrenched in almost all major decision making and policy producing bodies of the U.S. government machine. It does so not secretly, since its self-serving activities are advocated and legitimized by highly positioned parties that reap the benefits that come in the form of financial gain and positions of power.

Foreign governments and foreign-owned private interests have long sought to influence U.S. public policy. Several have accomplished this goal; those who are able and willing to pay what it takes. Those who buy themselves a few strategic middlemen, commonly known as pimps, while in DC circles referred to as foreign registered agents and lobbyists, who facilitate and bring about desired transactions. These successful foreign entities have mastered the art of ‘covering all the bases’ when it comes to buying influence in Washington DC. They have the required recipe down pat: get yourself a few ‘Dime a Dozen Generals,’ bid high in the ‘former statesmen lobby auction’, and put in your pocket one or two ‘ex-congressmen turned lobbyists’ who know the ropes when it comes to pocketing a few dozen who still serve.

The most important facet of this influence to consider is what happens when the active and powerful foreign entities’ objectives are in direct conflict with our nation’s objectives and its interests and security; and when this is the case, who pays the ultimate price and how. There is no need for assumptions of hypothetical situations to answer these questions, since throughout recent history we have repeatedly faced the dire consequences of the hijacking of our foreign and domestic policies by these so-called foreign agents of foreign influence.

Let’s illustrate this with the most important recent case, the catastrophe endured by our people; the September Eleven terrorist attacks. Let’s observe how certain foreign interests, combined with their U.S. agents and benefactors, overrode the interests and security of the entire nation; how thousands of victims and their loved ones were kicked aside to serve the interests of a few; foreign influence and its agents.

Sibel Edmonds would appear to be going into the 9/11-Turkish connection without saying so. Interesting. To be continued, eh??

Commenting on this Story is closed.

Tags for Scandalplex: Which Democrat gets House Intel Committee chair: AIPAC's Harman or Ghorbanifar's buddy Reyes?