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3670AIPAC Probed By FBI

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  • World View
    Mar 31, 2005
      AIPAC works to preserve clout in U.S.
      By Nathan Guttman

      WASHINGTON - In the seven months since Pentagon analyst Larry
      Franklin was accused of passing classified documents to the American-
      Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby has
      been struggling in two arenas: First, to extricate itself from the
      investigation without any indictments being issued, and second, to
      preserve its political clout in Washington's corridors of power.

      The second arena is the more problematic one. "AIPAC has lost a lot
      of its power," says a Capitol Hill source who follows AIPAC closely.
      But the fact that the source refused to be identified by name means
      that AIPAC is still a force to be reckoned with in the capital's
      political industry.

      AIPAC dismissed claims of its supposed enfeeblement, pointing to its
      extensive activity involving Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Iran
      and Syria over the past six months as proof.

      AIPAC is considered one of the five most powerful lobbies in
      Washington, alongside giants like the American Association of
      Retired Persons and the National Rifle Association, whose budgets
      dwarf AIPAC's. Another proof of its power is the presence at the
      main banquet of its annual policy conference of senior U.S.
      politicians. Last year, about half the Senate and one-third of the
      Congress was at the banquet, alongside governors and dozens of other
      politicians. Not many other organizations can put on such a display.

      Some in D.C. political circles said that AIPAC's main problem now
      was not the investigation in which it has become embroiled, but
      rather the political change going on in Israel. "AIPAC is simply
      lagging behind developments," said a congressional staffer close to
      the issue. According to the staffer, the fact that most of the AIPAC
      board is hawkish on the Israel-Palestinian conflict makes it
      difficult for the lobby to accommodate itself to Israel's new

      The issue of AIPAC getting used to the thawing of Israeli-
      Palestinian relations was put to the test last month during
      Congressional deliberations on a bill submitted by President George
      W. Bush to give $200 million in aid to the Palestinians to
      strengthen reforms and Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas'
      government. Congress approved the bill in the end, but only after
      adding some serious strictures.

      Who was behind the failure to pass the bill in its original form?
      Democratic supporters of the legislation said that AIPAC tried to
      torpedo it and that its lobbyists were behind the restrictions
      placed on the aid. AIPAC presented a totally different picture,
      saying that it was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who had taken a
      hard-line on the bill, and that AIPAC had saved the day by
      suggesting compromises which had allowed the bill to pass.

      Not even everyone in Congress knows who put the restrictions in the
      aid bill. After the vote, someone at a meeting of senior
      congressional staff asked who had been responsible for the
      limitations. "I don't feel comfortable discussing it here," a
      staffer from the allocations committee is said to have replied.
      Others present at the meeting said they thought he did not want to
      point a figure at AIPAC.

      AIPAC is sure that it hasn't lost its clout on the Hill. Dozens of
      lawmakers have demonstrated their support for the lobby since the
      start of the investigation; some have even lodged protests with the
      administration over the length and character of the investigation.

      Sources in Congress say that for whatever reason, recent months have
      seen marked increase in the presence of Jewish and other pro-Israel
      organizations on the Hill. If in the past the scene was dominated by
      AIPAC, groups like the right-wing Zionist Organization of America
      (ZOA) and the left-wing organizations Israel Policy Forum (IPF) and
      Americans for Peace Now (APN) are now making their influence felt.

      AIPAC's relations with the executive branch have been rendered more
      difficult because of a desire for secrecy. A source familiar with
      AIPAC's activities said that while work with Congress is simple and
      straightforward, the White House, the State Department and the
      Pentagon have been exercising a great deal more caution in their
      conversations with the lobbyists. It's only natural, the source
      said, considering that the FBI has clearly been monitoring AIPAC's
      telephone calls and e-mails.

      AIPAC bases its claim of undiminished strength on agreement by
      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to give the keynote speech at
      its annual policy conference in May. The appearance is seen as a
      vote of confidence in the organization, whose list of keynote
      speakers since the Franklin/AIPAC investigation began secretly three
      years ago has included Bush, former secretary of state Colin Powell
      and Rice herself. This will be Rice's third appearence at an AIPAC
      annual meeting.

      The affair has left Israel's representatives in the U.S. unscathed,
      although not unmentioned. Israel's diplomatic representatives enjoy
      immunity, making it difficult to make accusations when it comes to
      regular diplomatic activity. But even if there has been no official
      change, the investigation is making itself felt. A senior Israeli
      representative said a few months ago that he definitely sensed more
      caution on the part of administration officials. "Who would want to
      sit with me when he knows that the FBI could be sitting at the next
      table," the representative said.

      Caution is now the watchword in all contacts with either Israeli
      officials or AIPAC staffer, and especially when they meet with each
      other. Both the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC say working relations are
      good and even friendly. However, Israeli sources say they feel each
      side is "looking carefully at the other's statements," because in
      light of the investigation, the mere appearence of transmission of
      information between the lobby and Israel could be detrimental to


      Would the US administration care if its ally, Israel, spy on it?

      AIPAC Spying on the US
      CNI Info Alert
      March 18, 2005

      "Both men had been questioned by the FBI in connection with
      the Larry Franklin case. Franklin is suspected of passing classified
      documents to AIPAC, which passed it on to Israel,
      and is the subject of a six-month continuing investigation."
      "DeLay, as is well known, is a Christian Zionist, and he not only
      opposes the Gaza disengagement and but also any effort to remove the
      Jewish colonies from the West Bank, which he believes is part of
      ancient Israel."

      The Jewish newspaper the Forward reported this week that two senior
      officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-
      Israel lobby, have been given a paid leave of absence from their
      jobs. They are Steve Rosen, head of AIPAC's research department, and
      Keith Weissman, its deputy director of foreign policy issues.

      Both men had been questioned by the FBI in connection with the Larry
      Franklin case. Franklin is suspected of passing classified documents
      to AIPAC, which passed it on to Israel, and is the subject of a six-
      month continuing investigation.

      The Forward assumes that the paid leave of absence is an effort by
      the organization to cover itself for the indictments that are
      looming. David Corn of The Nation on his blog has been suggesting
      that the case would blow open very soon.

      Meanwhile, according to another report in the Forward, AIPAC is
      reported to have "brokered a deal" on Capitol Hill last week,
      resulting in the passing in the House of an aid package to the
      Palestinians that would disallow direct aid to the Palestinian
      Authority. The pro-Israel lobby had been put in good light by none
      other than Tom DeLay (R-TX), who announced that he would axe all aid
      whatsoever to Palestine if severe restrictions on how it was spent
      were not put in place - and defying both Condoleezza Rice and
      President Bush. The package that passed - the $200 million as
      requested by President Bush - is to be used for the construction
      of "high-tech crossing points," job creation, home and school
      construction, institution building and road works.

      In the past, aid to Palestine included a "national security" waiver,
      which allowed the President to provide aid if it was in the interest
      of national security. Emergency aid could be provided without
      special Congressionally placed rules and regulations.

      DeLay, as is well known, is a Christian Zionist, and he not only
      opposes the Gaza disengagement and but also any effort to remove the
      Jewish colonies from the West Bank, which he believes is part of
      ancient Israel.

      What the "brokered deal" means is that aid to Palestine will
      continue to be channeled through the United States Agency for
      International Development. Millions of dollars have been allocated
      to USAID projects but left unspent, because few foreign
      organizations have the financial controls necessary to meet USAID
      standards. Apparently, Congress is uninterested in speeding aid to
      Palestine at this critical time, despite the President's wishes.

      What the package also contains is a requirement that the funds spent
      be audited twice. This is a bonanza for American audit companies.
      The package passed by the House now proceeds to the Senate.


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