Mounting scandal at AIPAC
- Mounting scandal at AIPAC prompts talk of lobbying powerhouse's
By Ori Nir
December 10, 2004
Washington With senior officials at America's top pro-Israel
organization facing the specter of federal indictments, staffers at
other groups are beginning to waver in their support and are warning
that the mounting legal scandal could damage the political
credibility of the entire Jewish community.
The doubts were prompted by last week's FBI raid of the offices of
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and by news that four
of its top officials had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury. In
particular, the doubters said, the decision of a federal prosecutor
to turn to a grand jury on a matter involving AIPAC was ominous and
severely undermined the organization's claim that it was the victim
of a few rogue investigators.
Communal insiders warn that an indictment of an AIPAC official or a
trial that casts the association in a negative light could severely
weaken the lobbying prowess of all Jewish organizations at a time
when Israel and Jewish agencies are facing rising hostility in many
corners, and depending increasingly on support from Washington
"If this goes to court, and I am not even talking about a guilty
verdict, it will be very damaging to the community," said an
official at one national Jewish organization. "If this goes to
court, AIPAC as AIPAC will be on trial, and if AIPAC goes down, it's
a disaster for the whole community."
Jewish communal leaders are still publicly standing behind AIPAC and
expressing full confidence in its integrity and innocence. But for
the first time, some are quietly voicing doubts about the
organization's blanket denials of wrongdoing.
"It's okay to say once that the FBI is ticked at AIPAC, but a grand
jury with subpoenas that's not someone running a grudge campaign,"
said an official with a major Jewish organization. "Clearly,
somebody has thought this through. And they are looking for
Steve Pomerantz, a former FBI investigator who consults for Jewish
organizations sounded a similar note. He said the nature of the
subpoenas suggests that FBI investigators know what they're looking
"This is not a fishing expedition," he said. "It's clear to me they
have some specific information which is leading them in a specific
Last week, four AIPAC officials executive director Howard Kohr,
managing director Richard Fishman, communications director Renee
Rothstein and research director Rafi Danziger were hit with
subpoenas. The U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Va., Paul McNulty, a
prosecutor with experience in criminal cases involving national
security, is handling the case.
Investigators first raided AIPAC's offices in August, at which time
some observers suggested that the probe was focused mainly on Larry
Franklin, a Pentagon employee suspected of passing to the group
classified documents on Iran. However, insiders say the
investigation has moved away from Franklin and toward AIPAC and its
director of research, Steve Rosen.
Immediately after the FBI raid, the organization issued a public
statement saying: "As we have said from the beginning, AIPAC has
done nothing wrong." [Israel also claimed nothing was done wrong
when an Israeli commander emptied out his entire machine gun into a
child - a girl simply on her way to school - who was already dead.
Clearly, Jews define "wrong" differently than normal people.]
Several prominent communal leaders including Anti-Defamation League
director Abraham Foxman and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice
chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations were urging other Jewish organizations to be patient
as the investigation unfolds.
"None of us has the luxury to lose patience with AIPAC," Foxman
said. The legal process "is so bizarre and convoluted, so sensitive,
that when you are at its focus you don't do what your guts tell you
to do, but what your lawyers tell you." And the lawyers in such
situations, he said, tell their clients "to say less." Foxman
added: "Anyone who regards himself a friend of AIPAC and cares about
AIPAC should understand that," Foxman said.
Hoenlein said, "I see people standing behind AIPAC," adding
that "the people I hear from are losing patience with the government
and with the way it's being handled" not with AIPAC.
During a December 10 conference call, Kohr and Bernice Manocherian,
AIPAC's volunteer president, asked key Jewish communal leaders for
patience and pledged that eventually AIPAC would be vindicated. The
two AIPAC officials accused unnamed agencies within the
administration of nefarious motives, and conducted a baseless
fishing expedition against the pro-Israel lobbying group.
Some participants in the call were skeptical. "I sure hope that what
they are saying is true, and that they really made sure, internally,
that none of them has done anything wrong," one participant
said. "If it turns out to be different, there is going to be a big
problem for all of us, not just for AIPAC."
At one time, AIPAC was essentially an arm of the Conference of
Presidents, a coalition of 52 Jewish organizations generally viewed
as the Jewish community's consensus voice on Middle East affairs.
But in recent decades the board has grown, and its makeup has been
significantly altered so that independent donors not leaders of
other Jewish organizations hold the overwhelming majority of votes.
The chairman of the Conference of Presidents is a member of AIPAC's
board of directors, a group of 40 people who confer monthly to set
the organization's policy and manage its affairs. In addition, all
the presidents of member groups in the conference sit on AIPAC's
executive committee, a larger body of some 580 people that convenes
two to four times a year.
AIPAC, in turn, is a member of the conference.
"People, even in Washington, don't know the difference between some
Jewish group and AIPAC," said an official with a major Jewish
organization. "For them, any Jew lobbying on the Hill is AIPAC."
This perception of a stronger connection to AIPAC often has been an
asset for other Jewish organizations when attempting to advance
issues unrelated to Israel, the official said. But with the current
legal developments, some Jewish activists say they are beginning to
feel uncomfortable with the link. "There are some who are beginning
to think in terms of self preservation," the official said.
Fears that the case was headed to court increased this week, with
some Jewish activists assuming that the issuing of subpoenas meant
that the grand jury had been asked to issue indictments.
A grand jury is a 23-person panel that acts as a check to prevent the
Government's abuse of its power to arbitrarily bring people to
court. The grand jury decides whether a prosecutor has probable
cause to indict a suspect. Unlike the 12-person "petit jury" that
sits in court, the grand jury's decision does not require unanimity,
only a simple majority (12 out of 23).
Subpoenas are not necessarily an indication that indictments are
imminent, but they can be indications that "the case is at a rather
advanced stage," said Rita Simon, a professor at American
University's school of public affairs and school of law and an
expert on the jury system. "This indicates, obviously, that the jury
is not dropping the case."
Almost all federal criminal cases referred by prosecutors to a grand
jury for indictment end in charges being filed. In the 1993 fiscal
year, federal prosecutors secured 99,341 indictments, according to
official Department of Justice records; only 55 requests for
indictments were declined by a grand jury.
There is no indication, however, that such a referral has been made
in the case involving AIPAC. The government could be using the grand
jury at this stage as an investigative tool to compel people to
testify under oath for the purpose of obtaining more evidence, which
the prosecutor might feel he is lacking, according to Jack King,
director of public affairs at the National Association of Criminal
Attorney Abbe Lowell, who is representing Rosen and Keith Weissman,
AIPAC's deputy director of foreign policy issues, cautioned against
making any assumptions based on recent news reports.
"Anyone who would say that it is either a decision or inevitable
that my clients would be charged because of the grand jury
subpoenas, that person would be dead wrong," Lowell told the Forward.
In August, Justice Department sources told the press that Rosen and
Weissman were the AIPAC officials suspected of passing classified
information from Franklin, the midlevel Pentagon official, on to an
Israeli diplomat. The government leakers also said that the federal
investigation into alleged wrongdoings at AIPAC started as early as
2001. Reportedly, the investigation focused on a secret White House
draft on Iran that Franklin allegedly handed over to Rosen and
Weissman in the summer of 2003. Rosen and Weissman have not been
summoned to testify before the grand jury, although their lawyer
told the prosecutor months ago that they were willing to testify.
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post earlier this week,
Franklin agreed this summer to cooperate with the FBI in a set-up
operation. Citing government sources, the report said Franklin was
asked by the FBI to tell Rosen and Weissman a false tale: He had
learned that Israeli agents in northern Iraq were being targeted by
Iran and that they urged the AIPAC officials to ring the alarm bells
with the Bush administration.
Instead, according to the Jerusalem Post, Rosen and Weissman relayed
the information to their Israeli contacts. Such an action can be
regarded as legal if the person who relayed such information can
prove that he didn't know it was secret. A spokesman for AIPAC
refused to comment on the story, instead repeating the
organization's assertion that "neither AIPAC nor any of its
employees have ever received information they believed was secret or
classified." AIPAC's lawyer, Nat Lewin, told the Forward that the
Jerusalem Post report was an "interesting hypothesis."
The article appeared to contradict earlier reports claiming that the
FBI was already monitoring a meeting with AIPAC officials and an
Israeli diplomat, when they were surprised by Franklin's sudden
appearance with documents relating to Iran.
The AIPAC investigation had seemed to be dormant for months, with
some speculating that it was put on hold because of the presidential
election. In the meantime, AIPAC had garnered strong support from
lawmakers and American Jewish leaders, even using the investigation
in its fund-raising drive.
Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser and
nominee for secretary of state, spoke to the organization's national
summit in Florida in October.
This week, on Capitol Hill, the new developments in the scandal are
causing little furor, congressional staffers said, noting that the
news came while Congress was not in session. In addition, according
to congressional staffers, AIPAC enjoys a great deal of credit on
the Hill and, in the words of one aide, "is being held untouchable
until proven otherwise."
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this report.
FBI steps up AIPAC probe
By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent
Published December 9, 2004
WASHINGTON -- An FBI investigation into alleged Israeli espionage
against the United States and the possibility a pro-Israel lobby
group was involved in passing classified U.S data to Tel Aviv has
intensified because a confessed Pentagon spy has stopped cooperating
with federal law enforcement officials, U.S. government sources
Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst in the Near East and South
Asia office who worked for the Defense Department's Office of
Special Plans confessed last August to federal agents he had held
meetings with a contact from the Israeli government during which he
passed a highly classified document on U.S. policy toward Iran,
these sources said. The document advocated support for Iranian
dissidents, covert actions to destabilize the Iranian government,
arming opponents of the Islamic regime, propaganda broadcasts into
Iran, and other programs, these sources said.
The FBI was also interested in finding out if Franklin was
involved or could name any Pentagon colleagues who were involved in
passing to Israel certain data about National Security Agency
intercepts, these sources said.
Franklin was caught quite by accident last summer as part of a
larger investigation, these sources said.
In 2001, the FBI discovered new, "massive" Israeli spying
operations in the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey,
said one former senior U.S. government official. The FBI began
intensive surveillance on certain Israeli diplomats and other
suspects and was videotaping Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs
at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, who was having lunch at a
Washington hotel with two lobbyists from the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee lobby group. Federal law enforcement officials
said they were floored when Franklin came up to their table and sat
The FBI confronted Franklin in August 2004, and there seemed to
be progress on the case, but after Franklin hired Washington lawyer
Plato Cacheris, Franklin's cooperation abruptly ceased, federal law
enforcement officials said. The turnabout apparently infuriated the
FBI, former federal law enforcement officials said. Franklin could
not be reached for comment.
Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counter-terrorism chief, who has
good ties with law enforcement officials said, "The FBI was
An FBI consultant told United Press International: "The FBI were
hopping mad. The FBI had been kicked very hard in their macho. They
are very, very macho."
On Dec. 1, FBI agents visited the AIPAC offices in Washington
and seized the hard drives and files of Steven Rosen, director of
research, and Keith Weissman, deputy director of foreign policy
The FBI also served subpoenas on AIPAC Executive Director Howard
Kohr, Managing Director Richard Fishman, Communications Director
Renee Rothstein, and Research Director Raphael Danziger.
All are suspected of having acted as "cut outs" or
intermediaries who passed highly sensitive U.S. data from high-level
Pentagon and administration officials to Israel, said one former
federal law enforcement official.
One current FBI consultant said Rosen's name had first been
given to the FBI in 1986, along with 70 possible incidents of
Israeli espionage against the United States. No action was taken
against him, this source said. Rosen's attorney did not return phone
AIPAC has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the affair. In a
public statement, the group said its continuing access to the White
House and senior administration officials would
be "inconceivable...if any shred of evidence of disloyalty or even
negligence on AIPAC's part" had been discovered.
At the time of Franklin's arrest, Israeli Ambassador Daniel
Ayalon, repeated his government's denials, saying on CNN: "I can
tell you here, very authoritatively, very categorically, Israel does
not spy on the United States."
Another Israeli government statement referred to America as "a
deeply cherished ally."
But a former federal law enforcement official said Israeli
spying against the United States had been "widespread" for many
years, and that during the Cold War, Israeli penetration of U.S.
operations was second "only to the Soviet Union."
"Few people realize that the Israeli Counterintelligence Desk at
the Bureau was second in size only to the CI Soviet desk," he said.
A former very senior CIA counterintelligence official told UPI
that in 1998-99, the CIA discovered an Israeli couple, who were
subcontracted to a U.S. phone company, were working for Mossad, the
Israeli intelligence service.
"They did incredible damage -- they got incredibly sensitive
data, including key words identifying individuals or projects," this
source said, adding he himself gave the case to the FBI.
Perhaps the most notorious Israeli operation was the recruitment
of Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst, who was
convicted in U.S. federal court and sentenced to life in prison for
selling military documents to Israel. UPI reported in 1987, quoting
FBI officials, the FBI had traced stolen Pollard data up into the
Eastern Bloc where it was traded in return for the Soviet Union
raising the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel.
how the pro-Israel lobby works at the grass roots
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 09:58:30 +0500
This is how the pro-Israel lobby works at the grass roots; sending
local and state politicians from whose ranks the next members of
Congress will come, on all-expense paid trips to Israel.
Unfortunately, the article did not list all the members of the tour.
This is going on all year around all around the country and has been
for years, since it is key to maintaining the lobby's control over
Congress while AIPAC and key voices of "the movement" tell us it is
because Israel is a "strategic asset" for the US. -- Jeffrey
From Eilat to Galilee, local D.A. sees complex Israel on JCRC trip
by joe eskenazi
Kamala Harris, who grew up in Montreal surrounded by Jewish friends
and even extended family, always yearned to visit Israel.
But it's a long way from Quebec to the Western Wall, and Harris
never made it to the Jewish state.
The San Francisco district attorney was one of about a dozen mostly
elected officials taken on a tour of Israel late last month by the
Jewish Community Relations Council.
Personal highlights for the lawyer naturally gravitated toward her
legal expertise. Speaking with an elderly survivor reminded her of
nothing so much as counseling a shaken rape victim.
"I deal with people who are victims of violent crime all the time.
They experience trauma, and when [the survivor] described the
experience of surviving and then going to Israel and getting that
feeling of 'Why did I survive? Why am I here when so many were
killed?' that really jelled for me, knowing the experience victims
of crime have," she said.
The group took in Israel from Eilat to the Galilee, stopping to talk
with a vast number of Israelis of all political stripes, ranging
from settlers to Israeli Arab students.
"I tell you, what I got out of the trip was certainly a much better
appreciation for the complexity of the issues that Israel faces and
a much better appreciation for the depth and breadth of those
issues," said Harris.
Harris found something unexpected within Israel's Supreme Court
building as well - an American law library.
"Of course I asked what's going on. And, contrasting the ancient
history of the place and the newness of the country, the courts and
supreme court justices may rely on laws of other countries or at
least refer to those laws in creating their own jurisprudence."
The JCRC has been bringing Bay Area community leaders to Israel for
the past 15 years with the aim of shedding some light on the
nation's myriad complexities and spurring person-to-person
relationships with Israelis in similar leadership positions.
"As we expose groups to the various issues within Israel, we give
them a good picture, if you will, of the beauty of the land and its
history," said Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the JCRC about
the trips, which are underwritten by the Jewish Community Endowment
Fund and Bernard Osher Foundation.
"Our view is to open up this extraordinary society to our
participants and help encourage a variety of long-term relationships
to be built as well as a lifetime of interest in terms of Middle
In addition to Harris, trip participants included state
Assemblymembers Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento, Johan Klehs (D-San
Leandro) and Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga); Jesse Blout, the director of
the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce
Development; and Steve Cohn, a Sacramento City Council member.
CopyrightJ, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
This is how AIPAC works. They bring a speaker, usually a US senator
from another state who is in their pocket, to speak only at their
event. His presence is not announced to the main stream media and
these meetings are not reported in the mainstream press. His
constituents are, of course, unaware of this trip and it is not
reported in his home state, either.-- Jeffrey Blankfort
AIPAC speakers: A nuclear Iran is Israel's next big worry
by joe eskenazi
The estimated 4,500 audience members at this week's Bay Area AIPAC
events came to bury Yasser Arafat, not to praise him.
Nary a tear was shed over the former Palestinian Authority
president's demise. Yet any window of opportunity for a democratic
Palestinian state will be rudely slammed shut if neighboring Iran
gets the bomb, according to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and AIPAC
Executive Director Howard Kohr, the featured speakers at the San
Francisco, Oakland, San Mateo and Sacramento events.
In fact, predicted Kohr, within the next year Israel's prime
minister will be faced with a decision as difficult as any ever
faced by the Jewish state: A preemptory attack against Iran may save
the lives of millions, but would almost definitely cost the lives of
thousands or more via terrorist retaliation.
"Iran has a terrorist network on a global scale. They operate in
Europe, Africa, Asia and throughout the Middle East. They operate in
North America," he said at the Monday, Dec. 13, luncheon at San
Francisco's Moscone Center.
Kohr told the roughly 1,300 present at the San Francisco luncheon
that Iran is already the top financial sponsor of terrorist groups
in the West Bank and Gaza.
"Just a few weeks ago, the No. 2 person in Iran, [Akbar Hashemi]
Rafsanjani, called upon all Muslim nations of the world to use
nuclear weapons on Israel. He asserted such an attack would
annihilate Israel but only cause Muslim nations some damage. This
was the first and most bold statement by a leader in Iran about what
the purpose of those weapons might be. And if there's anything 9/11
taught us, it's to take radicals seriously."
Israel needs the United States' help in quelling Iran's nuclear
ambitions, said Kohr. But, noted Reed, the ongoing military
commitment in Iraq has severely limited the nation's military
options. What's more, Iran is twice as large as Iraq and more than
three times as populous.
"One of today's painful ironies is we are witnessing the emergence
of a nuclear state that is comfortable supporting terror while we
are burdened fighting the insurgency in Iraq after finding no
weapons of mass destruction," said Reed, a senator since 1996.
The specter of a nuclear Iran looms over the real possibilities of
change stemming from the Jan. 9 Palestinian elections.
Reed noted that Israeli "good will" in the months leading to the
elections - easing of movement restrictions and gestures such as
allowing East Jerusalem residents to vote in the election - "could
pay dividends in January and in the days ahead."
The election gives Palestinians the
opportunity to "move forward or continue to be wedded to violence.
We must insist they move forward."
He said Israel must "be prepared to engage in direct talks. For the
last several years, it was apparent that talks with Arafat were
unproductive. [Now] there must be a willingness to meet with leaders
on the other side willing to undergo the arduous and lengthy task of
securing peace in the region."
Kohr, who spoke dramatically and forcefully at the S.F. event, was
at his loudest and most assertive when he defended AIPAC, the pro-
Israel lobby, against allegations it has been illegally spying on
the United States on behalf of Israel.
"Nothing is more antithetical to what AIPAC stands for than these
allegations. Nothing makes us more angry than to be accused of
having dual loyalties," he said before a crowd that included
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, four Northern California Congress
members, Mayor Gavin Newsom and dozens of consuls generals and other
"Many people ask me how this [FBI investigation] could happen. I
tell you honestly, to this day, we still don't know. Because the
government has not yet told us what this is all about. Much of what
we get is from the press.
"We have," he shouted, "nothing to be ashamed of."
CopyrightJ, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
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