A propos of today’s Jane Harman story, Josh Marshall has been raising questions as to whether the “Israeli agent” mentioned in yesterday’s CQ piece might be Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul who also bought a huge amount of power and influence in Washington by buying out the whole the Brookings Institution’s Middle East research operation (since renamed the “Saban Center.”)
I have a few points to make regarding this:
1. An excellent late 2006 profile of, and interview with, Saban can be found here. It’s by Ari Shavit of Ha’aretz. You can learn a lot about Saban there, including his deep “passion” for Israel and the almost child-like delight he has in his ability to use his immense wealth to wield political power, e.g. in this section:
- “I’m not after power. But I do not belittle the fact that I can go to Angela Merkel in the Chancellory and say, ‘Hi, Angela, how are you?’ And she replies, ‘Haim, nice to see you.’ I don’t minimize that. That’s a great pleasure. And that I sit with Clinton in the White House and he goes to the refrigerator and asks me if I want regular water or fizzy? Sometimes I tell myself that there’s something a bit nutty here. He’s the president of the United States. I sell cartoons. So he is going to serve me and ask if I want regular or fizzy water?”
Do you have the feeling that you are living in a movie?
“I’m living in a movie all the time.”
2. Saban presents himself there as an Israeli-American, and he is almost certainly still a citizen of Israel (where he spent 19 years of his youth) as well as of the US. I am a dual citizen myself– of the UK and the US. I don’t know whether the holding of a foreign passport makes it “easier”, in US legal terms, for the NSA to wiretap a person. (Anyway, I always figured Dick Cheney would have been listening to my phone calls regardless of my nationality.)
For Saban’s part, from the Shavit interview he seems fairly strongly predisposed to go to bat for purely Israeli interests, even where these might clash with US interests, whereas since becoming naturalized as a US citizen in 1988 I have never felt the slightest urge to go to bat for British interests at the expense of any US interests at all. I don’t intervene in any way in British politics, and though Her Majesty might be shocked to learn this, I carry her passport mainly as a matter or personal and professional convenience at this point.
3. Anyway, if some of the heavy hitters in the US media would put some shoe-leather and other resources into reporting this story we’d have a far better idea of the identity of the un-named “Israeli agent”– who may or may not be an Israeli or a dual Israeli-US national– the wiretapping of whom led to the record of the call with Harman in the first place. Why have the WaPo and the NYT not yet published anything on this story?