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AIPAC Staffers to be Indicted

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    JUSTICE DEPT. TO INDICT TWO AIPAC STAFFERS UNDER U.S. ESPIONAGE ACT Nathan Guttman, Haaretz, 5/30/05 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/581817.html WASHINGTON
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2005
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      JUSTICE DEPT. TO INDICT TWO AIPAC STAFFERS UNDER U.S. ESPIONAGE ACT
      Nathan Guttman, Haaretz, 5/30/05
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/581817.html

      WASHINGTON - The U.S. Justice Department is expected to file
      indictments against two former senior American Israel Public Affairs
      Committee (AIPAC) staffers - Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman - and,
      according to sources familiar with the affair, the charges will be
      subsumed under the Espionage Act.

      A Virginia grand jury is now examining the evidence in the case, which
      involved receipt of classified defense information from Larry
      Franklin, a Pentagon official, and its transfer to the representative
      of a foreign country, Naor Gilon, of the Israeli embassy in Washington.

      Sources involved in the case confirmed that the Espionage Act is on
      the agenda. However, there is also the possibility that the Justice
      Department is raising the intention to use that law with the purpose
      of reaching a plea bargain concerning a lesser offense, albeit one
      that is still covered by anti-espionage legislation in the U.S.

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      Presumably, if indeed such an indictment is filed against two former
      top-level AIPAC staff members, then Gilon's name will come up, even
      though he is not a suspect. Israeli officials say he was never
      questioned in the affair. Gilon heads the political department at the
      embassy.

      According to the sources, the grand jury will submit indictments
      against Rosen, the former head of foreign policy for the lobbying
      organization, and against Weissman, who was responsible for the
      Iranian brief in AIPAC. The grand jury is expected to hand down its
      indictment against Franklin this week. He is suspected of handing over
      the classified information. That indictment is expected to be similar
      to the criminal complaint already filed by the FBI.

      The classified material is said to involve information about Iranian
      intentions to harm American soldiers in Iraq, and it was supposedly
      given to the two former AIPAC staffers during lunch in Virginia on
      June 26, 2003.

      But suspicions against Rosen and Weissman focus on a meeting a year
      later, on July 12, 2004. Franklin was cooperating by then with the
      FBI, which had threatened him with an indictment after tracking his
      earlier meetings with the AIPAC men, discovering the alleged hand-over
      of secret information. He agreed to take part in a sting operation in
      which he would give the two information and the investigators would
      then follow them.

      Franklin called Weissman and asked for a meeting to discuss an
      important subject. At the meeting, in a mall near the Pentagon,
      Franklin told Weissman that Iranian agents were trying to capture
      Israeli civilians working in the Kurdish area in northern Iraq. Around
      the same time there had been conflicting reports in Washington about
      an Israeli presence in Kurdish Iraq. Journalist Seymour Hersh of The
      New Yorker had written that Israelis were operating there, but Israel
      - and the Americans - denied it.

      At the meeting, Franklin told Weissman that the information was
      classified. This is significant in terms of the investigation, since
      it prevents the AIPAC men from claiming in their defense that they did
      not know they were dealing with state secrets.

      Weissman left the meeting and went straight to Rosen's AIPAC office at
      Capitol Hill. He said it was a matter of life or death, and that
      Israeli lives were in immediate danger. The two made three phone
      calls: to an administration official, to Glenn Kessler of The
      Washington Post, and to Gilon, at the embassy. Rosen told Gilon about
      the information and the Israeli official promised he would look into
      it. All those calls were wiretapped by the FBI and are part of the
      case against Rosen and Weissman.

      Plato Cacheris, Franklin's lawyer, confirmed to The New York Sun this
      weekend that his client indeed took part in the sting operation and
      said that the investigators appealed to Franklin's sense of patriotism
      to win him over.

      The fact that Rosen and Weissman, as American citizens, handed
      information to an official representative of a foreign power while
      knowing it was classified is incriminating under the 1917 Espionage
      Act, which defines as a crime receipt of classified information for
      the purpose of helping any foreign entity.

      The estimated 500 cases involving prosecution of this crime over the
      last 90 years have always focused on the accused party initiating
      receipt of the information and on the damage done to the U.S. as a
      result. In this case, Franklin initiated the transferal of information
      - and there is no clear-cut evidence regarding the damage done to the U.S.

      Rosen, who was under FBI surveillance for at least four years, is now
      planning his defense with the help of high-profile attorney Abby
      Lowell. He does not want a plea bargain and prefers to fight it out in
      court, so he can prove his innocence and go back to work for the lobby.

      A decisive factor regarding the future of the case will be the extent
      of the cooperation between Franklin and the investigators. If Franklin
      depicts his relationship with Weissman and Rosen as close, and one in
      which he was asked to provide information, it will help the
      prosecution. Rosen and Weissman claim that the connection with him was
      minimal and mostly involved trading professional assessments.
      (Franklin met with Rosen three times, and more often with Weissman.)

      But Franklin is not believed right now to be cooperating fully and he
      faces two charges: one for handing over the information in 2003, and
      the other for the illegal possession of 83 classified documents at his
      home in West Virginia. The maximum punishment for each of the charges
      is 10 years in prison. If he cooperates with the investigation, the
      punishment could be significantly reduced.

      AIPAC will presumably be discussed in the actual trials. But right
      now, at least, it does not appear the organization itself will be
      charged. AIPAC leaders have taken a series of steps to cut themselves
      off from the two former officials suspected in the case. Sources close
      to the case say the prosecution posed four conditions to AIPAC, which
      would guarantee that it would not be involved in the indictments: a
      change of working methods to ensure that such incidents don't happen
      again; the firing of the two officials and public disassociation from
      them; no offers of high compensation or anything else to make it
      appear the two quit of their own volition; and no financing of their
      defenses.

      AIPAC has abided by the first three conditions - and the severance pay
      offered the two was considered very low, considering the many years
      they worked for the lobby. But it is said to be helping with their
      legal fees, indirectly, through its own law firm.

      AIPAC's decision to cooperate with the investigators' demands and to
      fire the two officials was made after it became evident that the FBI
      had tape-recordings showing that Franklin explicitly said that the
      material was secret. AIPAC's assessment was that it would be difficult
      for the organization to continue working on Capitol Hill, and with the
      administration, while two of its senior officials are facing such charges.

      Although the inquiry is not focused on AIPAC, it is possible the
      organization will be dragged into the affair when the trial begins. If
      the two fired staffers are put in the dock, they will try to prove
      that they only did what was routine and conventional work for their
      organization.

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