Video: Wiretapping Congress

updated 4/22/2009 4:57:42 PM ET 2009-04-22T20:57:42

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she was aware a few years ago that Rep. Jane Harman had been overheard on a government wiretap.

"A few years ago, maybe three years ago, they did brief me," Pelosi told reporters at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

She said that when a member of Congress is recorded as part of a wiretapped conversation, intelligence officials inform congressional leaders.

"That happened at that time," Pelosi said. She added that the classified briefing was not detailed, and she did not tell Harman at the time.

"All I knew is that she was wiretapped," Pelosi said.

"When you are briefed on something, it isn't your information to share with anybody else," she added. "Even if I wanted to share it with her, I would not have had the ability to share it with her."

Harman has said she first learned of the wiretapping last week from a reporter who had knowledge of the transcript of the recording.

Congressional Quarterly reported Monday that Harman was overheard in a National Security Agency wiretap agreeing to seek lenient treatment for two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who were under investigation and later indicted for unlawfully possessing and disclosing classified information.

In exchange, according to CQ, prominent pro-Israel contributors would press Pelosi to appoint Harman to the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.

Harman has vehemently denied contacting the Justice Department or White House to intervene in the case and has asked Justice to release a transcript of the intercepted phone conversation.

Pelosi, meanwhile, issued a lukewarm statement of support for Harman.

"It was not my position to raise it with Jane Harman," Pelosi said. "I have great confidence in Jane Harman. She is a patriotic American. She would never do anything to hurt her country."

The two veteran Democratic lawmakers from California, both experts on intelligence matters, have long had a tense personal and political relationship.

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