Hackwatch: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.)

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Rep. Harman, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has long been an aggressive defender of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, calling federal whistleblowers who revealed the program’s abuses “despicable,” and at one point even suggesting criminal prosecution of the New York Times for revealing how the program may have been in violation of U.S. law.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Harman “was overheard on telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency agreeing to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for two pro-Israel lobbyists who were under investigation for espionage.” In return, “the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor…would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi…if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.”

Suddenly, Harman isn’t so fond of NSA’s wiretapping program, or the idea of federal eavesdropping in general, even though the tap on her own phone was legal, and administered after federal officials actually bothered to secure a warrant. Yesterday on CNN, Harman unleashed a torrent of (self) righteous indignation:

I’m just very disappointed that my country — I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years.  I’m one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back.  I’m thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they’re innocent Americans.

I don’t really see any ameliorating factors, here. Harman gets the first perfect score—a 10 out of 10—on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index.

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it here, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line. Prior installments of HackWatch here.

(Hat tip: Glenn Greenwald)

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30 Responses to “Hackwatch: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.)”

  1. #1 |  Matt D | 


    And, of course, there’s this:

    The CQ article, citing unnamed present and former national security officials, said a preliminary review was halted by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales because he wanted Ms. Harman’s support in dissuading The New York Times from running an article disclosing a program of wiretapping without warrants conducted by the National Security Agency.

  2. #2 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    Scumbag hypocrite.

  3. #3 |  Craig | 

    She had better comments on NPR.


  4. #4 |  Stacy | 

    It truly is hard to believe that someone is unable to recognize this type of hypocrisy in themselves. Or, I suppose, not unbelievable at all because we see it on a daily basis. Yikes. This is almost too perfect.

  5. #5 |  Adam W. | 

    Not the first to get a 10.

  6. #6 |  mkvf | 

    good point, well made, but think you owe jeff stein/cq a credit on this, ahead of the NYT

  7. #7 |  Mattocracy | 

    I think of Varsity Blues and imagine Billy Bob saying “10! you’re a fuckin’ 10!”

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Terrorists hide among the little people which is where the NSA should be focusing their efforts. Little people don’t have any rights so they don’t have to waste time with warrants and shit like that. Listening in on important government officials is abuse of power with or without a warrant. And, it’s one thing when you leak info about some mere citizen who no one gives a shit about, but leaking info about an important government official is beyond evil. Whoever did it needs a stern lecture about the various levels of justice we have in America which level is applied to whom.

  9. #9 |  dsmallwood | 

    i thought that Kyle (F’er-AZ) had the first perfect score?

    i heard the NPR thing yesterday. i wasn’t aware of her history. all i could think at the time was, “where was she when Bush was in office? where was the oversight then?” i also thought it was kinda good because she sounded ‘average’, and by that, i mean that she spoke like she barely understood what happened, but was still bothered. like an ‘average American’ would. most people don’t know wth FISA is.

    now you tell me that this POS was there? and went along?!? … until it bothered her? what a complete F-wad. there isn’t an ‘inner’ enough circle of h*ll for this type of scum.

  10. #10 |  nobahdi | 

    I hate to be a stickler, but isn’t the “Hack Watch” supposed to identify politicians who change their philosophies on government powers depending on which team is in the white house.

    This is more a case of a hypocrite changing her stance because she never once considered the actual implications of her ideology until it directly affected her.

  11. #11 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Hold on a second…Israel has spies?

    Aren’t they our most trusted friends and like almost married to us…oh, and the trillions in aid.

  12. #12 |  Highway | 

    I heard her on NPR, and what I kept hearing when she was talking was “How dare they do this to a member of Congress”. It took her until the very last word of the interview to say ‘Citizen’. Until that last sentence it was seemingly implied that this would all be fine if it was some normal person, it’s just beyond the pale when we do it to someone who is in the federal government.

    Personally, I was thinking ‘You know, we should do this with ALL congressmen and senators, and leave the rest of us alone.’

  13. #13 |  Marty | 

    I love irony, but I can’t even laugh at this… my understanding of warrantless surveillance is that it can’t be used for criminal trials- is this correct? if so, has she violated any civil statutes?

  14. #14 |  ManM | 

    What committee is she on, Radley?

    You said “intelligence,” but that can’t be right.

  15. #15 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    @ #10

    God damn it.

  16. #16 |  Cornellian | 

    “my understanding of warrantless surveillance is that it can’t be used for criminal trials- is this correct? if so, has she violated any civil statutes?”

    The Feds actually did have a warrant to spy on Jane Harman, according to the story.

    So to sum up:

    Feds spying on you WITHOUT a warrant = reasonable and necessary measure in the interests of national security;

    Feds spying on Jane Harman WITH a warrant = outrageous abuse of governmental power.

    Thanks for clearing that up for us Rep. Harman.

  17. #17 |  Congresswoman Harman: You mean they can tap my phone? « Sleepy G’s | 

    […] April 22, 2009 by Garret From Radley Balko: […]

  18. #18 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Just here to repeat Cornellian – they actually went to the trouble of obtaining a warrant in the Harman case. The warrant was likely for the other side of the conversation, but, regardless, she’s trying to jump on the warrantless wiretapping bandwagon when it didn’t affect her (that we know of).

    That actually makes her worse, in my book, as she’s misrepresenting her case to garner sympathy that is even less deserved.

  19. #19 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    I suspect Michael (#18) is correct– that the government got a Wiretap Act warrant against the person she was talking to. Assuming the conversation happened (and her non-denial denial is pretty weak), it would have been minimized (i.e., the recording stopped) if the investigators believed while listening that it was innocent. In the normal, pre-9/11 world, these requirements were followed pretty well in most cases.

  20. #20 |  Lloyd | 

    The scandal does not stop with Harman and Haim Saban. Pelosi did give Harman the chair, as instructed. Some have called for Harman’s ouster/resignation. Shouldn’t Pelosi at least step down as Speaker? She sold a committee chair.

    The other part of the story — that Harman was needed to chair the Intel committee in order to make the case for war with Iran — seems to be getting hushed. Much louder are the hysterics over Iran’s supposed nuke weapons program.

    Yeah, I know, the Republicans are just as bad. Where does that leave us?

  21. #21 |  Collin | 

    “Pelosi did give Harman the chair, as instructed.”

    Silvestre Reyes is the chairman, not Jane Harman.

  22. #22 |  Collin | 

    D’oh, wrong comittee.

  23. #23 |  Edmund Dantes | 

    No she wasn’t given the Intelligence chair. It was actually a big deal because she was technically one of the people in line for it. People had objected to her being given the chair because of her support of Bush’s policies and her membership in the Blue Dog coalition. Turns out the DFH were right again.

  24. #24 |  Edmund Dantes | 

    Let me clarify. She has a subcommittee chair, but not the overall Intelligence committee chair she wanted and thought she deserved.

  25. #25 |  Nick T | 


    How about a hackwatch for all those politicians who vigorously pursued the impeachment of Clinton, but now think criminal investigations would be too divisive and politically controversial to pursue now?

  26. #26 |  chsw | 

    I think that the release of the info on Harman has all the markings of internal Jackass Party feuding.

  27. #27 |  SJE | 

    talking of hackwatch, andrew sullivan is collecting quotes e.g. Pres Bush, National Review etc calling for prosecution up and down the line for those who approved the treatment at Abu Ghreib. That could be interesting.

  28. #28 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    Chsw (#26)– I think it’s more likely that the release of the information on Harman was by disgruntled Bush admin dead-enders who wanted to inflict some payback on her for not preventing the release of the torture memos.

  29. #29 |  SJE | 

    Ben#28: while it is possible that disgrunted Bushies released the information on Harman, it remains that Harman created the information. If facts appearing in the media are unflattering, perhaps you shouldn’t have done those things. I wait for a full disclosure that might put things in proper perspective.

  30. #30 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    SJE, I don’t see your point. I was responding to the assertion (see #26) that the RELEASE of the information on Harman “has all the hallmarks of internal Jackass Party feuding” (by which I assume he/she meant Democrats). I thought that was unlikely (especially since the sources have been described as current and former intelligence officials).

    I was certainly not defending Harman, if what has been reported is actually true.