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The Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. She should resign from the House of Representatives or be impeached for selling her soul to the Bush-Cheney duumvirate in lusting after the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.

The lady, of course, is Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). When the 9/11 terrorists struck, Harman was a member of the Intelligence Committee.

It was the child of the renowned 1975-76 Church Committee hearings that demolished the myth that public oversight of the intelligence community would damage national security. The hearings unbosomed decades of abuses by the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency because Congressional oversight slumbered: burglaries, illegal mail openings, illegal interceptions of telegrams, spying on Vietnam War dissenters, etc. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was enacted to prevent a reoccurrence.

Harman was one among the Congressional leadership who was informed by the Bush-Cheney duumvirate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program. It empowered the NSA to intercept the e-mails and conversations of American citizens on American soil without warrants in criminal contravention of FISA.

She did not protest that if FISA was deficient, amendments should be enacted, the law should not be ignored. She did not disclose her knowledge of FISA crimes perpetrated by the White House as demanded by her official oath to defend the Constitution. Instead, she remained mute like a vassal to a lord. She similarly remained obediently silent when informed by the White House of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,— i.e., waterboarding or other forms of torture.

When the New York Times prepared to disclose the illegal TSP in October and November 2004, Harman called Washington Bureau Chief Philip Taubman at the behest of the then-NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, to urge against publication. Shortly before the TSP was revealed more than one year later, Harman again argued against exposing the White House’s criminal spying on Americans.

A couple weeks ago, the Times reported that the NSA had intercepted Harman’s phone conversations in which she agreed to seek favorable law enforcement treatment from the Bush White House on behalf of two pro-Israeli lobbyists.

An intercessor for the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee allegedly asked for Harman’s assistance in influencing an Espionage Act investigation against Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman in exchange for lobbying for her appointment to head the Intelligence Committee. One lever mentioned was a threat to prospective Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to arrange for a wealthy California donor to withhold campaign contributions if Harman’s promotion were not forthcoming.

Instead of immediately reporting the intercessor to the FBI for attempting to obstruct justice, Harman engaged him, according to reports. A preliminary Department of Justice inquiry into her potential criminal culpability was scuttled by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to enlist her against the Times’ disclosure of the TSP.

Cognizant of her vulnerability, Harman apparently buried any enthusiasm she otherwise might have had to cast sunshine on the Bush-Cheney intelligence or interrogation crimes. She became a White House cheerleader. She supported the state secrets doctrine to frustrate the people’s right to know about the TSP and torture. She championed FISA amendments to authorize unprecedented group warrants and retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies complicit in FISA crimes. She touted federally assisted “fusion centers— that enlist 800,000 state and local law enforcement officers in the collection of intelligence against American citizens unrelated to crime to create a massive and indiscriminate anti-terrorism database.

As chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment, Harman was in high dudgeon over my April 1, 2008, testimony accusing fusion centers of spying on speech and association protected by the First Amendment and failing to prevent a single terrorist incident. Her “oversight— of the centers consisted of orchestrated monosyllabic assurances from three police leaders that they honored the First Amendment and privacy and had discovered the earmarks of terrorists with super-sleuthing. The parallel to Vice President Dick Cheney’s insistence that everything he supported against al-Qaida was constitutional and fabulously successful seemed to escape the chief overseer.

Harman is too morally, ethically and legally compromised to discharge her constitutional responsibility to check, expose and remedy White House abuses in a post-Bush-Cheney environment. If she does not resign, Pelosi should commence impeachment or ethics committee inquiries.

Bruce Fein is chairman of the American Freedom Agenda and former associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan.