Fox News contributor Juan Williams on Sunday praised government personnel for leaking to the media and damaging the Trump administration while in front of a former Democratic congresswoman harmed by Obama administration intelligence leaks.
During a panel on “Fox News Sunday,” former California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman told Chris Wallace she was “very troubled” by the leaks coming out of the administration.
“John McCain is right. Leakers should be prosecuted. The Justice Department should go after the leakers. We have enough statutes to prosecute them. In this climate, partial leaking is even worse because then there are selected quotes and you can make anything seem true,” Harman said.
Harman was a victim of a government intelligence leak during the Obama administration in spring 2009 when it turned out that a conversation she had with an Israeli agent was wiretapped and her name leaked to the press. A secrecy expert told Talking Points Memo at the time the leakers likely committed a felony.
TPM wrote at the time of Harman’s case:
The law quite clearly prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of classified information ‘concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government.’ And Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy, confirmed to TPMmuckraker: ‘It seems crystal clear that if this was a FISA wiretap,’ as appears to be the case, ‘then whoever disclosed it committed a felony.’ Aftergood explained that under FISA, the communications of American citizens “are supposed to be minimized”. But in this case, he said, ‘they were publicly revealed. It seems to be the clearest violation of law in the whole episode.
It was later reported by Roll Call that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was aware of the Harman wiretap, which happened in 2005 or 2006, a few years before the matter became public.
“It was not my position to raise it with Jane Harman,” Pelosi told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor lunch in April 2009. “In fact, I didn’t even know if what they were talking about was real. All they said was that she was wiretapped.”
Harman called the surveillance and unmasking of her name “an abuse of power.”
“I never had any idea that my government was wiretapping me at all,” Harman said on CNN’s “The Situation Room” at the time. “Three anonymous sources have told various media that this happened. And they are quoting snippets of allegedly taped conversations. So I don’t know what these snippets mean. I don’t know whether these intercepts were legal. And that’s why I asked [Attorney General] Eric Holder to put it all out there in public.”
“I have great confidence in Jane Harman,” Pelosi added. “She’s a patriotic American. She would never do anything to hurt her country.”
Despite Harman’s own history with government leakers, Williams declared moments later on the panel during the discussion: “Just give me a moment here to say if you have a leak please call me at FOX News. I’m all for leakers. I think leakers are good to contribute to democracy. I don’t think trying to undermine government but I don’t think we condemned Obama for going harshly against people who were disclosing information acting as if they were agents of some foreign government. This is a democracy we have a First Amendment. Reporters play an essential role.”
Williams went on to say, “But guess what? We have as Jane Harman said a moment ago a history in this country of people talking to the press, leaking taking risks. I don’t see all of a sudden, oh just because of this president all of a sudden everybody who says you know what there’s a risk to democracy is to be condemned.”
Harman, who shook her head during Williams’s pronouncements, attempted to respond but the show time had run out.