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Jane Harman: Angry, partisan, civil liberties extremist

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April 21, 2009
by Glenn Greenwald

Blue Dog Rep. Jane Harman — once the most vigorous Democratic cheerleader
of Bush’s NSA warrantless eavesdropping program — is rip-roarin’ angry today.
Apparently, her private conversations were eavesdropped on by the U.S. Government!
This is a grave outrage that, as she told Andrea Mitchell just moments ago,
demands a probing investigation:

That’s what I asked Attorney General Holder to do — to release any tapes,
I don’t know whether they were legally made or not, of my conservations about
this matter . . . and to hope that he will investigate whether other members
of Congress or other innocent Americans might have been subject to this same
treatment. I call it an abuse of power in the letter I wrote him this morning.
. . .

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.

So if I understand this correctly — and I’m pretty sure I do — when the U.S.
Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and
in violation of the law, that was "both legal and necessary" as well
as "essential to U.S. national security," and it was the "despicable"
whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers
which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the
lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with
warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy
and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations
must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold
Jane Harman’s overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless
Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist.

But I’m really wondering: as serious as it is when a member of Congress is
the target of government eavesdropping, can we really afford to investigate
this? After all, we have so many very important things to do. It really seems
like we need to be looking forward, not backwards. The Bush administration is
gone. This all happened in 2005 — years ago. Is this really a time to be pursuing
grudges, to be re-litigating old disputes? What kind of partisan witch hunt
is Harman after? We can, and surely should, reflect on what happened to her
— in fact, let us now pause together for a moment of quiet reflection on what
was done to Jane Harman — but this is not a time for retribution or looking
back. "Most Americans" want the people’s business done, not "abuse
of power" investigations.

Besides, if Jane Harman didn’t do anything wrong — as she claims — then what
does she have to hide? Only Terrorists and criminals would mind the Government
listening in. We all know that government officials have better things to do
than worry about what innocent Americans are saying. If she did nothing wrong
— if all she was doing was talking to her nice constituents and AIPAC supporters
about how she could be of service — then Bush officials obviously weren’t interested
in what she had to say.