As the Harman-AIPAC story unfolds all I can do at this point is make a few observations whose significance (or irrelevance) will become apparent in the future.
The questions that everyone predictably grab hold of in a situation like this are: Why is the story coming out now? Who’s interests are served by the timing?
In this case a supposedly telling coincidence is the fact that the story comes out in the middle of the waterboarding controversy and, lo and behold, it turns out Harman was the only Congressional leader who had objected to the interrogation program.
Well, Jeff Stein is quite emphatic in asserting that the story came out at this particular time for prosaic rather than political reasons. When asked why it came out now he said: “No special reason. The story was not ‘planted’ on me to influence any other events – in particular the looming AIPAC trial or things related to the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. I’ve known about it for some time but just not been able to pull it together until now for various reasons.” He also said, “The fact is, there is no ‘timing’ to any ‘leak.’ No sources ‘came forward,’ so to speak. I learned about this quite a while ago and was just recently able to turn my full attention to it.” Stein has a reputation as a methodical, diligent journalist and I’ll take his word for it on the timing.
Meanwhile, as everyone scrambles to try and figure out what’s going on here there are vying narratives that seem to have more to do with the observers preoccupations than they do with the story.
This is a story about AIPAC. It’s not about waterboarding or warrantless wiretaps.
There are those who, even if they don’t like AIPAC, nevertheless seem to think the AIPAC investigation rests on shaky legal ground and doubt that it will ever make it to trial. But that level of skepticism is hard to square that view with what are already established facts.
Larry Franklin is sitting in jail, serving a 13-year term. Two Israelis involved in the case hold or are about to enter key positions in the new Israeli government. Naor Gilon, who was alleged to receive classified information both from Franklin and then-AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, has just been appointed as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s chief of staff. Another Israeli official also involved in the case, former Mosad director, Uzi Arad, is expected to become Prime Minister Netanyahu’s national security adviser.
Unless this trial is avoided (might there be a plea bargain in the works?), this isn’t going to just be about the arcane Espionage Act. It’s going to be about how AIPAC works. Potentially, it’s going to be about whether AIPAC is genuinely an independent lobbying organization, or whether its operations have become so deeply entwined with those of Likud/Kadima-led Israeli governments that AIPAC should be legally treated as an agent of a foreign government.