AIPAC prosecution dealt major blow
- Prosecution of AIPAC staffers dealt major blow
By Ron Kampeas ·
February 24, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The prosecution in the case against two former
AIPAC staffers lost two key battles in recent days, raising hopes
among the defense that the ex-officials of the pro-Israel lobby
ultimately will be acquitted of all charges.
In decisions five days apart, judges quashed government efforts to
block the rights of Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee's former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its
former Iran analyst, to submit certain material or witnesses for
evidence. The rulings, along with the scolding language of the
judges' decisions, suggests the courts view the government as having
overreached in its prosecution of the pair for passing on classified
On Feb. 19, T.S. Ellis III, the federal judge trying the case in
Alexandria, Va., decided to allow defense testimony by William
Leonard, the official who until a year ago was the ultimate
government authority on what information to classify.
Then, on Tuesday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.,
issued a ruling that upheld orders by Ellis that the prosecution must
prove that the information Rosen and Weissman allegedly relayed to
journalists, Israeli diplomats and colleagues was "closely held" by
the United States and potentially damaging to U.S. interests, and was
relayed in bad faith.
This would meet the standards for the burden of proof set by the 1917
espionage law under which Rosen and Weissman are being tried.
The Ellis ruling "set a very high threshold for the prosecution to
not only demonstrate a particular set of facts, but also to prove
intent on the part of the defendant," explained Steven Aftergood, the
director of the Secrecy Project at the Federation of American
Scientists, which seeks to protect First Amendment rights.
"That is a difficult and possibly impossible task," Aftergood
said. "The prosecution is left with its all-but-insurmountable burden
In what some are calling a rebuke of the government, the three-judge
appeals court panel called "improper" the government's effort to
overturn Ellis' 2006 decision.
"The government's attempt to piggyback a pretrial review of the
court's interpretation is improper at this juncture," the panel said.
In classified information cases like these, pretrial prosecution
appeals are meant only to address questions of what classified
evidence is admissible, the appeals court noted. The government
already had attempted to broaden its narrow grounds for appeal, and
last summer the appeals court rejected that bid.
"Our dismissal of that appeal constitutes the law of the case, and we
will not revisit it," the appeals court panel said this week.
Some observers close to the defendants say these decisions over the
last week give the Obama administration an opportunity to reconsider
whether to go ahead with the case, which has proven controversial.
For their part, lawyers for Rosen and Weissman were elated.
"This is a tremendous victory for the defendants," said Baruch Weiss,
who represents Weissman.
"The ruling of the 4th Circuit is just the latest confirmation that
this is a misdirected case brought under a misdirected theory where
the government continues to be reminded that they are wrong," said
Abbe Lowell, the attorney for Rosen. "Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman
are anxious to now use all of the various court rulings to move ahead
and finally try this case to prove their innocence."
If the case ever goes to trial, which is scheduled for April 21.
In pretrial hearings, prosecutors have suggested that Ellis'
restrictions create a high barrier to overcome in a trial that has
been delayed multiple times over four years.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in eastern
Virginia, told JTA after this week's ruling that "We are reviewing
the decision and will respond accordingly."
The decision by Ellis to allow Leonard to testify also contained
reproachful language. The government had argued that because Leonard
had consulted for about an hour with prosecutors in 2006, he was
barred from testifying for the defense under laws that restrict
government employees involved in a case from testifying against the
Prosecutors had threatened to jail Leonard for up to a year if he
testified, but Ellis rejected their request to ban his testimony.
Ellis questioned whether prosecutors sought Leonard's removal because
his theories about government overclassification, which Leonard made
plain in his 2006 meeting with them, would assist the defense.
"That Leonard might disagree with the government is no reason to
allow the government to invoke" the relevant statute "to prevent
Leonard from serving as a defense expert," Ellis wrote.
This week's ruling provides a potential opening for the Obama
administration, which has been eager to undo some of the secrecy
provisions instituted by President Bush, to drop the case.
Despite the Bush administration's closeness to the pro-Israel
community, its fingerprints were all over the case, which was of a
piece with the administration's efforts to restore executive powers
and expand secrecy.
The case was brought in 2005 by Paul McNulty, a U.S. attorney who
later was named deputy attorney general. Before then, McNulty was
best known for his work to impeach President Clinton and during the
2000 electoral recount in Florida.
The decision not to revisit Ellis' rulings buries at last all
arguments by prosecutors that the 1917 espionage statute did not
require proof of bad faith and that its baseline was that the release
of the information might help a foreign government, not necessarily
that it would harm the United States.
The section of the law that criminalized the receipt and distribution
of national defense information by civilians has barely been tested
in the courts.
The appeals court ruling Tuesday contained other victories for the
It upheld Ellis' allowance of an "Israeli briefing document" --
apparently relevant because it shows that U.S. officials were
relaying to Israeli counterparts information almost identical to that
referred to in the original indictment. The briefing document also
allowed an FBI report that may help show that information allegedly
discussed by Weissman in a conversation about the 1996 bombing of a
housing complex for U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia was broadly known.
Ellis' ruling also allows a number of National Security Presidential
Directives on Iran.
FBI agents raided AIPAC's offices in August 2004. Rosen and Weissman
were indicted a year later.
AIPAC doubles earnings
February 12, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- AIPAC's fund-raising nearly doubled in four
years.Tax records show that the American Israel Public Affairs
Committeeraised $46.9 million in 2004, including $15.1 million for
itsaffiliate, the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable
groupthat funds campus activities, seminars and missions to Israel
bystudents, government officials and lawmakers.By 2007, AIPAC showed
$86 million in income, including $35.1 for the foundation.
Contributions to AIPAC began soaring after the eruption of thesecond
Intifada in 2000 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.In recent
years, the lobby has raised funds for a new headquartersin downtown
Washington, opened a year ago, and for expanded campus activities.
Our dual-citizenship Congress:
Lotsa pork for Israelis, no pork for California?
By Jane Stillwater
I turned on the television last night and listened to the local
news anchor tell me, "The State of California is currently facing
bankruptcy." I live in California. This is not good news. Plus
California's jobs are drying up, homes are being foreclosed on,
stores are going out of business, schools are laying off teachers,
banks are eliminating branches. The eighth-largest economy in the
world is about to tank. Boy could we use some financial help from
But will we get it?
No pork for California, not even a bailout.
But Congress still continues to enthusiastically pour billions
of our taxpayers' dollars into the Israeli economy each year. What's
with that? Do our Congressional representatives hold dual
citizenship with the United States and Israel or what? When are they
going to stop voting pork for Israel and start voting bailout money
Are we Californians going to have to start firing Qassam rockets
at Washington to get their attention or what?
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