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Spy Case Against AIPAC Lobbyists Dropped

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    Obama Justice Department to Drop Spy Case Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists By NEIL A. LEWIS Friday, May 1, 2009
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2009
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      Obama Justice Department to Drop Spy Case
      Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists
      By NEIL A. LEWIS
      Friday, May 1, 2009
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/us/politics/02aipac.html?_r=1&hp


      WASHINGTON – The Obama Justice Department moved Friday to drop all charges against two former pro-Israel lobbyists who had been charged under the Espionage Act with improperly disseminating sensitive information.

      The move by the government came in a motion filed with the federal
      court in Alexandria, Va. which was to be the site of the trial that was scheduled to begin June 2.

      The prosecution's case against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman
      suffered several setbacks in rulings from the trial judge. At the same
      time, the case was fraught with deep political dimensions, as it raised delicate issue of behind-the-scenes lobbying over Middle East policy and the role played by American Jewish supporters of Israel.

      Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, who were lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby, were charged with violating the World War I-era Espionage Act. The indictment said they violated the law by disseminating to journalists, fellow Aipac employees and Israeli diplomats information they had learned in conversations with senior Bush administration officials.

      Judge T.S. Ellis 3d, who was to preside over the trial rejected several government efforts to conceal classified information
      if the case went to trial. Moreover, he ruled that the government could only prevail if it met a high standard; he said prosecutors would have to demonstrate that Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman knew that their distribution of the information would harm U.S. national security.

      Over government objections, Judge Ellis said that the defense could call as witnesses several senior Bush administration foreign policy officials to demonstrate that what occurred was part of the ongoing process of information trading and did not involve anything nefarious. The defense lawyers were to call as witnesses Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, Stephen J. Hadley, the former national security advisers and several others. Government policymakers indicated they were clearly uncomfortable with senior officials testifying in open court over policy deliberations.

      The government's motion to dismiss filed before Judge Ellis cited
      some of these reasons. The motion, filed by the acting prosecutor in
      Alexandria, Va. and not by any senior Obama Justice Department official, said that before proceeding with the case the government was obliged to consider "the likelihood that classified information will be revealed at trial, any damage to the national security that might result from a disclosure of classified information and the likelihood the government would prevail at trial."

      Noting that the prosecutors disagreed with some of Judge Ellis's
      ruling, the motion said that, "the landscape of this case has changed
      significantly since it was first brought."

      The motion said that, "We have re-evaluated the case based on the present context and circumstances and determined that it is in the public interest to dismiss the pending superseding indictment."

      The investigation of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman also surfaced recently in news reports that Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat long involved in intelligence matters, was
      overheard on a government wiretap discussing the case. Ms. Harman was
      overheard agreeing with an Israeli intelligence operative to try and
      intercede with Bush administration officials to obtain leniency for Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman in exchange for help in persuading Democratic leaders to name her the chairman of the House intelligence Committee.

      Ms. Harman has denied interceding for the Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman and objected to her being wiretapped.

      ===

      Prosecutors to Drop Charges Against Two Former AIPAC Lobbyists
      By Jerry Markon
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Friday, May 1, 2009
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/01/AR2009050101310.htmlYahoo! Buzz


      The U.S. government is abandoning espionage-law charges against two
      former lobbyists for a pro-Israel advocacy group, federal officials
      announced this morning.

      Prosecutors said they will ask a judge to dismiss the case against
      Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman because a series of court decisions
      had made it unlikely they would win convictions. The two are former
      lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC,
      an influential advocacy group.

      Rosen and Weissman were charged in 2005 with conspiring to obtain
      classified information and pass it to journalists and the Israeli
      government. They were the first non-government civilians charged under
      the 1917 espionage statute with verbally receiving and transmitting
      national defense information. Some lawyers and First Amendment
      advocates have said the case would criminalize the type of information
      exchange that is common among journalists, lobbyists and think-tank
      analysts.

      Dana J. Boente, the acting U.S. Attorney in Alexandria, said this
      morning that prosecutors were abandoning the case because of "the
      diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial under the
      additional intent requirements imposed by the court and the inevitable
      disclosure of classified information that would occur at any trial.''
      Prosecutors have filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, which must
      be approved by a federal judge.

      Baruch Weiss, a lawyer for Weissman, said that the
      two former lobbyists "are innocent, and it's been clear to us from
      outset that we would ultimately prevail.'' He said defense lawyers
      "were able to put together an array of experts to demonstrate to the
      government that the information" the men were accused of passing along
      was "innocuous.''

      The decision is a stunning vindication for the former lobbyists, who
      were accused of providing information about topics that included the
      activities of al-Qaeda and possible attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
      Rosen, of Silver Spring, was AIPAC's director of foreign policy issues
      and was instrumental in making the committee a formidable political
      force. Weissman, of Bethesda, was a senior analyst. AIPAC fired them in 2005.

      The trial had been set for June 2 in U.S. District Court in
      Alexandria. But recent pre-trial rulings had made the case difficult
      for the government. Those decisions included an appeals court ruling
      that allowed the defense to use classified information at trial. A
      lower-court judge also said prosecutors must show that the two men knew that the information they allegedly disclosed would harm the United States -- a high burden for prosecutors.

      Boente cited "the additional intent requirements imposed by the
      court" in his statement this morning. "When this indictment was
      brought," he said, "the government believed it could prove this case
      beyond a reasonable doubt based on the statute. However, as the Court
      of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit noted, the District Court potentially imposed an additional burden on the prosecution not mandated by statute."

      The AIPAC case has always been controversial, and it came to public
      attention again with the recent disclosure that a prominent House
      lawmaker, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif), had been recorded in 2006 on FBI wiretaps allegedly offering to use her influence on behalf of Rosen and Weissman.


      Harman strongly denied the allegations and accused the government of an "abuse of power" in wiretapping her conversations. Law enforcement
      sources have said the review of the case was triggered by the recent
      court rulings and was unrelated to the revelations about Harman.

      If the high-profile trial had gone forward, it was expected to
      feature testimony from a number of senior Bush administration
      officials, including former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, and former high-level Defense Department officials Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith.

      *********************************************************************

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