A row has broken out in Washington over a Jewish congresswoman’s links to pro-Israel lobbyists after her phone calls were wiretapped by the National Security Agency.
Rep Jane Harman, a California Democrat known for her strong ties with pro-Israel groups, was heard conducting a conversation with a “suspected Israeli agent”.
In the call, Ms Harman was asked to use her influence with the administration to help two former staffers of the pro-Israel lobby Aipac who are facing espionage-related charges.
The two lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are accused of communicating national security information they received from a Pentagon analyst to Israeli diplomats, reporters and to their bosses at Aipac.
According to reports, in return for helping out the Aipac staffers, Ms Harman was promised help with her bid to win the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. Harman is quoted as ending the call saying: “This conversation doesn’t exist.”
The California congresswoman, who is slated to speak at an Aipac conference next month, said she was “outraged” by the allegations and by being subject to a wiretap. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Ms Harman requested that all transcripts of her wiretapped conversations be made public. “If there are tapes out there, bring it on,” she said. Harman, who, as senior Democrat on the intelligence Committee supported the Bush administration’s attempts to increase the use of wiretaps, called the recording of her conversation “an abuse of power”.
The leaks of the wiretapped conversations did not identify the “suspected Israeli agent”.
Mr Rosen and Mr Weissman’s trial is expected to start on June 2 at the Virginia district court, more than four years after the indictments were served. But the Washington Post claimed this week that the case may be dropped.