Harman: I Didn’t Know Surveillance Program Broke The Law

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March 31, 2008 6:03 p.m.

Earlier this month, we published an excerpt from Eric Lichtblau’s new book, Bush’s Law, in which Lichtblau wrote that when he’d approached Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), then the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, about the administration’s then-still-secret warrantless wiretapping program, she’d shushed him and told him that The New York Times did the right thing by not publishing the story in 2004.

In a post at TPMCafe today, Harman doesn’t dispute Lichtblau’s telling of the interaction, but does dispute that her position on the program underwent “a dramatic transformation,” as Lichtblau writes, after Lichtblau and James Risen of the Times broke the story under the headline “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts” in December of 2005.

Before the story broke, she writes, she had no clue that “the Administration was violating FISA.” She writes that the gang of eight had been briefed on “an NSA effort to track al Qaeda communications using unique access points inside the US telecommunications infrastructure,” but that they’d been told nothing about warrantless wiretapping. Her “first inkling that the program was in not compliance with FISA but was conducted pursuant to claims of “inherent” executive power,” she writes, came after the story broke, when she was free to consult her staff.

So what does Lichtblau think of this? Well, we’ll be interviewing him tomorrow about his book and we’ll pop the question.

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