Eli Lake of the Washington Times had an important yet overlooked scoop yesterday: Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, scourge of the left-wing of her party and subject of intense and petty hatred from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “was one of the only lawmakers in 2003 to challenge the CIA’s program of harsh interrogations, according to a little-noticed letter to the CIA that was declassified last year.” Lake reports on a letter that she wrote to the CIA, in which she expressed her concern that the interrogation program “raises profound policy questions and I am concerned about whether these have been as rigorously examined as the legal questions. I would like to know what kind of policy review took place and what questions were examined.”
Harman not only questioned the legality and effectiveness of the CIA interrogation programs, she also called upon the CIA not to destroy tapes of its interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Whatever one thinks about the propriety of this program, Harman at least demonstrated the concern that Nancy Pelosi only now claims — completely unconvincingly, as Bret Stephens cogently reminded us last week — to have expressed.
Furthermore, Lake cites a government official who says that Harman’s inquiry “was one of very few the CIA received about the program from members of Congress at the time.” So much for the theory — a point of consensus among the leading lights of the credulosphere — that Harman is part of the vast neoconservative conspiracy and was merely an appendage of the Bush administration in Congress. In the eyes of her left-wing detractors, Harman ought to be a hero.
But why let facts get in the way of a good narrative? Harman was a vocal supporter of the Iraq War and opposed most of her colleagues by not supporting a withdrawal of troops from that country in 2006 and 2007. Due to her hawkishness, she has long been a target of virulent left-wing attacks, and lost out on her bid to chair the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a job that former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt promised her when the Democrats were in the minority. Pelosi ended up giving that job to Silvestre Reyes, a legislator who infamously didn’t know that Al Qaeda is primarily Sunni and Hezbollah is Shi’ite.
If the Democratic Party leadership wants voters to think they’re serious about national security, they would be promoting Jane Harman. One can draw the appropriate conclusions from their not having done so.