Scott Horton Interviews Philip Giraldi
Philip Giraldi, contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine and regular contributor to Antiwar.com, discusses the confirmed existence of an incriminating Jane Harman wiretapped conversation, the appearance that Harman is effectively an asset of a covert Israeli intelligence operation, the perception among some U.S. politicians that the road to higher office runs through AIPAC and the increasingly apparent near-total corruption in U.S. government.
MP3 here. (40:38)
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA and DIA counter-terrorism officer, member of the American Conservative Defense Alliance and contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine. His Smoke and Mirrors column is a regular feature on Antiwar.com.
Partial transcript by Luke Ryland:
Phil Giraldi: My source has seen a copy of the (Harman) transcript, and there are apparently a couple of copies floating around in various places, and he’s been able to confirm that what the New York Times and other sources have been reporting about some of the actual words used and some of the quotes are alleged to have been made in this conversation are completely accurate.
He further indicated to me that the original leak of this information came from an official at the Department of Justice – where of course these transcripts would be on file. So that’s kind of interesting in and of itself, because it raises the question of why this is happening right now, and how did this happen. Is there some political motivation behind it?
There are a couple of things to look at here. The first thing to look at, of course, is what would have been the potential consequences of this – and one of the potential consequences is that you might have had someone who was – essentially – an Israeli agent either heading the House Permanent Intelligence Committee – or heading the CIA, which was another job that Jane Harman had a shot at.
Scott Horton: A couple of things here. Let me start with that – and suggest that what you are saying here is hyperbole. I don’t know, you’re a former intelligence agent, a covert operative, not an analyst, but on the covert side of the CIA. If you recruit someone in another country, that makes them an agent, or an asset?
PG: That makes them your asset, because, you see the line you try to get a potential agent to cross is to do something illegal for you, and once they cross that line, there’s no going back, because they will always have that skeleton in their closet, and that skeleton is always going to be there. And all you have to do is go back and tweak them and say ‘Hey – remember that conversation we had, and that favour we did for you, and the favour you did for us? Well, we remember that, and we have another favour to ask you’ – and that’s the way it works, that’s how you recruit spies, and that’s how you run spies.
SH: … So what you’re saying here is that a foreign power almost had their agent as the head, the Chair, of the House Intelligence Committee, and then also she was runner-up for Director of Central Intelligence, or Director of CIA, in the new Obama administration?
PG: That’s right. She could have conceivably had either position, and indeed if the scheme that they had worked out where the Israeli lobby and the Israeli interests were going to weigh in with Nancy Pelosi to make sure that she got the job, it would have happened.
And there’s no reason to assume that it wouldn’t have happened except of course that both the Israeli and Jane Harman were not aware that (the conversation) was being taped while this conversation was going on, and Nancy Pelosi was later briefed on the call.
But the fact is that the idea was a sound one, that the Israeli lobby had enough influence, and certainly if you combine it with the money issue, to make sure that Harman got the job. But the problem for Pelosi was that once the investigation got opened by the FBI this becomes a matter of public record, in a sense, and Pelosi could not take the risk of appointing her to the job.
SH: That’s a really good point. I guess it is fair speculation that if Pelosi didn’t have any idea, and this was the normal course of events, she probably would have gone along, and that’s the normal course of events in that city.
PG: Sure, because Jane Harman was mentioned as the likely candidate. If you think back to that time, it was a big surprise when Reyes got the job instead of her, and everybody was wondering what has happened here, and now this kind of fills out the story.
SH: Now, your source, I know you can’t name names, but can you say whether this is a journalist friend of yours, or a current or former intelligence agent, or who this is that saw the transcript?
PG: It is a journalist who saw it.
SH: So, I guess I’m going to understand that the name on the transcript other than Harman is blacked out or what? How come we don’t know – of all the leaks all over the place about this – how come we still don’t know the name of the alleged Israeli spy here?
PG: Yeah, that’s correct – it’s an interesting question, and in fact the journalist I talked to – the transcript he saw did indeed have the name missing, and – now, this is interesting – because that is often a deliberate way of handling a source that is co-operating with you. So this might mean that the FBI already had a hook into this guy.
SH: Somebody in the comments section at antiwar.com/radio blog mentioned that Jane Harman had done this major flip-flop and there was a link to a youtube video of the Armenian lobby group – a lot of you people protesting quite loudly calling her genocide denier. Apparently she was a co-sponsor of the Armenian Genocide Recognition Resolution – or what ever it was – while at the same time it was discovered that she had written a letter to Tom Lantos to scotch the thing.
SH: So that reminded me of course of Dennis Hastert because I believe the story goes that, according to Vanity Fair, and Daniel Ellsberg and people familiar with the Sibel Edmonds case, which I know you’ve written about, that this was something that Hastert got a direct cash pay-off for – thousands of dollars – in order to thwart the Armenian Genocide resolution, in order to protect America, and apparently Israel’s relationship with Turkey. Can you expand on that?
PG: Yeah, I think that you hit it right at the end there. I think that what she was doing… she’s a congresswoman from Los Angeles and she has a strong constituency of Armenians who are wealthy and politically motivated, and so she was indeed one of the co-sponsors, but the Israel lobby, and Israel, decided that they didn’t really want this to go ahead, for a couple of reasons. The relationship with Turkey being the most important one, and a lot of congressmen as a result of the shift on the part of the Israeli interests also shifted those votes. So she was one of them. Tom Lantos of course was involved in this too. Nancy Pelosi did a shift on it as you know. So a lot of it goes back to Israel.
SH: … I want to really focus on this distinction between, as you said, Israel’s covert operations against the US government – and I think anybody tuning in to this story will say ‘Wait a minute. A congresswoman being bought off by an Israeli spy to intervene in a trial of other Israeli spies? What is going on here? It seems like this must not be taking place in a vacuum. There’s a bigger picture here to understand about the extent of Mossad or whatever influence inside the US.’ Can you give us a reasonable picture of what we’re looking at here?
PG: Well, I guess it is what the Greeks would call Hubris, and the Israelis would call chutzpah. It’s a sense that the Israelis have, because of the power of their lobby, have basically come to the point of view that they can do anything and get away with it. And essentially this point of view has been supported by reality. You know, why should an Israeli intelligence officer, or a surrogate of an Israeli intelligence officer be able to call up a congressman and even make one of these proposals in a credible way? It’s kind of astonishing. You or I couldn’t do it.
The Israelis act as you might think back to the article I wrote last year for the American Conservative about Israeli spying. The Israelis are amongst the most active spies against the US, and a big part of this espionage operation is what they call covert actions, or influencing operations where you influence the policies of the countries that you are targeting. The objective of all of this is to do it in a covert way – as the name implies – so that your hand is not revealed, and this is precisely what we’re seeing in this phone call where the Israeli intelligence officer is presumably using a surrogate to make the call, someone who has access to Jane Harman and he makes his proposal and his proposal is an attractive one, and as I said earlier, once you are on the hook for this, you are on the hook for ever. And once you’re on the hook forever, whatever they ask you to do within the realm of possibility, you have to do. And that’s basically how an intelligence operation of this sort works.
SH: Well, that’s pretty outrageous. Is it just crazy to think that somewhere in any intelligence agency they would think ‘Wait a minute – I think going for the Chair of the Intelligence Committee is a bit too high. This might be more trouble than it is worth’ or something like that? Would basically any covert operator try to rig a situation like that?
PG: Well you always go for risk-versus gain assessment on any operation in intelligence, but this one is a gold medal one. You get the big star for catching the person at the top of the pile, and certainly if she had this conversation with this person on the phone, clearly it was somebody she had been talking to before about things that kind of were maybe similar, because otherwise she would have probably been unwilling to even talk to him about these kinds of things, so they kind of had a feeling that she would be inclined to look at this thing positively before they even made the proposal, and they threw some very strong incentives into the hopper. They hit the money button in terms of money for the Democratic Party and they also hit her own personal ambition in terms of turning her into the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
SH: So that’s where we really get into Bizarro World here… You have Larry Franklin, the case that started all of this thing, the top Iran analyst in the policy shop at the Pentagon, he wanted a promotion to the National Security Council, so apparently the way he judged his risk/benefit, the idea of going to Rumsfeld and asking for a recommendation was out of the picture. He decided instead the best route to the White House was through Israeli spies, and apparently this is the same way that Jane Harman assesses the balance sheet as well: If I want a promotion, I need to get the government of Israel to intervene on my behalf! That’s really through the Looking Glass at this point isn’t it?
PG: Well, it’s not through the Looking Glass, because obviously they felt that that was the way to go. And, you know, there are a lot of other people that see the US in the same way. For example, let’s go back to our Turkish example. Why are the Turks so cozy with Israel? Do they have any real community of interest? You know, they have some common enemies in the area and so forth, but the big reason is that being chummy with the Israelis is a big plus for the Turks vis-a-vis the US. So a lot of people have seen our foreign policy as having this kind of key in the door which is the Israeli relationship, the Israeli connection, and clearly this was very plausible that the Israelis would be able to make these things happen. And even a canny operator in the political sphere like Jane Harman was convinced that it would work.
SH: I guess the message here is that the American people are just not responsible enough to maintain a world empire, because the incentive for the leaders of every other country to exert extraordinary influence in order to try to influence this empire apparently outmatches the American people every time.
PG: And our politicians are so corrupt and so motivated by their own interest that it makes it easy to manipulate them. I suspect that’s a big part of it too. But you know this whole Israeli thing has been going on for so long, and they’ve been so successful at it, that they just kind of feel that at certain levels they are bullet-proof, and they can do what they want, they can manipulate the situation to satisfy their own needs. And I think, in this case, I think the story has real legs and I think this is something that maybe is not going to go away no matter how hard Fox News and some of the others try to make it go.
SH: I want to get to the NSA thing because that connects to this story in a couple of important ways, and I guess the Ben-Ami Kadish theft of nuclear secrets cuts perhaps into the same thing. I’m having trouble figuring out exactly who is investigating what and under what authority but it seems like there has been one big FBI counter-intelligence operation against Israel spying inside the US since about 1998 or 1999, and that this one investigation seems to interact with all these different things – whether it is the leaking of secrets to Ahmed Chalabi who then passed them onto Iran, or whether it is the Sibel Edmonds story talking about the Turkish lobby, the neocons or Israeli spies in the Pentagon or paying off people in the Pentagon to steal secrets for them. It all sort of seems like – perhaps even this Jane Harman investigation – or would-have-been investigation-that-never-happened – is still kind of part of this one big counter-intelligence operation. Am I guessing anything close to right there? What do you think is going on?
PG: Well, I think that the key here is that this is all part of one huge, co-coordinated intelligence effort by the Israelis, and once you make that assumption, you realize that what the FBI is doing is they’ve been nibbling at the edges of this for a long time, and they’ve been discovering increasingly that a lot of the pieces come together. And we really shouldn’t be surprised at that. I would also throw in a lot of the phony intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, a lot of the phony intelligence that we’ve seen more recently trying to blacken the Iranians. This is all part of a scheme that is basically coordinated by Israeli intelligence, but has a lot of fellow travelers in the US, particularly the people we were seeing up until recently at the Pentagon, that basically are part of this scheme. And I think what the problem is for the investigators at the FBI is that they get a lot of names, they get a lot of information, but a lot of these people turn out to be Jane Harmans. They turn out to be people that basically are in very sensitive positions in the government and it becomes a political issue where to go with this kind of investigation, and the result is that most of these investigations are, as in the case of the Jane Harman investigation, they are squashed.
SH: It really goes to show, I guess, that you can even understand their point of view. That to really make the change and say for example really let the FBI off the leash and try to bring cases and let the Justice Department try to bring cases against as much Israeli spying and corruption and that kind of thing as they can, in this whole interconnected web of neocons and criminals… It would be ‘horribly destabilising,’ in their words, right. We’d be talking about taking two thirds of Washington DC and putting them in prison.
PG: Yeah, that’s one way to look at it. The thing is that if the FBI and DoJ ever went after all the people who ever gave classified information to Israel or did things that amounted to malfeasance or criminal activity on behalf of Israel there would be a lot of people running through the system, and you’d have people like Abe Foxman screaming ‘Anti-semitism!’
So yeah, there’s a political dimension to everything but this is one kind of festering sore that has been there for a long time, and to lance it now would be an enormous political problem for any administration, Democratic or Republican.
SH: Let’s talk about heroin.
SH: Part of the Sibel Edmonds case is that, and again, this is like a giant onion with all of these different layers, but she basically describes nuclear secrets being sold on the black market, in one big market basically that includes basically the terrorists’ underground economy and money laundering obviously, and heroin running from Central Asia through the Turkic countries and into Europe. Now, my basic assumption going into these matters has got to be that the CIA is running the whole thing, and I wouldn’t know why anybody in America participating in such a thing would really be in such a bad way if it’s all given a wink-nod but the US government anyway. But maybe I’m assuming too much. What do you say?
PG: Well, I have no evidence that the CIA is involved with these things. I think that there are a lot of this is private enterprise. These are people who are a Turkish General, or retired CIA officers of whom I could name a couple but I won’t, who are involved in… let’s call it commodities trading – in Central Asia, in the Middle East, and getting stuff into Europe and into Russia and stuff like that. Russian Generals, warlords in Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officers, there’s a whole community of people out there, and they’re all kind of involved in these same ventures.
And once you set up a mechanism that is good for shipping drugs and getting it into a certain market you can use the same mechanism, in reverse, to sell weapons. So that I think is the bottom line of Sibel’s story – that there are just a whole lot of complex relationships that have been set up in the Middle East and Central Asia – Israelis are in the middle of a lot of these, there are Turks involved, but there are Americans involved too.