More on that “Suspected Israeli Agent”

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Let me follow up on my earlier post which asked just who that “suspected Israeli agent” was who Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) was talking to. Some quick TPM staff research shows that the original Time article on this story from 2006 identified Harman’s interlocutor as Haim Saban.

(See my correction at the bottom of this post. It’s less clear than I originally thought that we know Saban was the person on the other end of the phone call. Time notes that Saban did lobby Pelosi on Harman’s behalf and seems to suggest this as a possible part of the quid pro quo. But a closer look leaves the identity of Harman’s interlocutor an open question.)

Saban is a major entertainment industry mogul, who’s a big contributor to the Democratic party and a major supporter of Israel. If you’re interested in some fun trivia, I think a big chunk of his fortune comes from creating the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. In any case, Saban was born in Alexandria, Egypt, was I believe raised in Israel and then became a naturalized US citizen.

The key here is that the premise of the investigation into AIPAC was precisely whether people around AIPAC were not just big boosters of Israel but in some sense acting as agents of a foreign power — obviously, an extremely explosive question. So the intel sources appear to be referring to him as a “suspected Israeli agent.”

There are obviously a lot of facts we don’t know here. But if Saban is the interlocutor, it seems to me that any legal case against Harman would likely be very shaky since the claim that Saban was an agent of a foreign power would quite likely be legally unsustainable.

Late Update: Ron Kampeas has more on this at the JTA blog.

Important Late Update: A closer look at the original Time article says that Saban was the one who lobbied Pelosi, but not necessarily that Saban was the “agent” in the conversation with Harman. However, Ron Kampeas’s update at JTA says that Saban was in fact the person on the call. So I think this idea is more than likely correct. But let’s make the identification more tentative than I originally suggested. What’s not clear to me is whether Kampeas was doing more than drawing an inference from the Time reporting. So for the moment, let’s say that the identity of Harman’s interlocutor is an open question.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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