Rice to Testify in AIPAC Trial
- CONDI TO TESTIFY?
British news has it this morning that Condoleezza Rice and Stephen
Hadley will be subpoenaed in a trial of lobbyists accused of
disclosing national defense information.
Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, former employees of the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), face charges of conspiracy to
pass secret US defense information to Israel while they worked for the
powerful lobby group.
Rosen, Weissman and Lawrence Franklin, a department of defense
official, were charged in 2005 with conspiracy to communicate national
defense information following a lengthy FBI investigation. US
officials alleged that between 1999 and 2004, Franklin passed secrets
to Israel using AIPAC as a conduit.
The powerful neocons in our government have long worked with Israel
against the interests of this country, but it is rare that a light
gets shined on it (it is widely headlined in international media this
morning, but not in the USA). One reason we are so hated in the
Muslim world is for defending Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
Israel-aligned Pentagon neocons were a primary force behind the
invasion of Iraq and are the biggest proponents for an invasion of Iran.
The trial could be secret, and we may not get to find out what is the
outcome, as such things rarely get to the public in our "open and free
democracy," as corporate media describe it. Almost everything of
importance to the public interest is secret now, out of fear that the
public will find out something about either foreign policy, or
corporate control of regulatory agencies.
As Admiral Gene LaRocque used to tell me, the secrets are not kept
from foreign enemies, who already know these things, they are to keep
American citizens in the dark --Jack
Judge approves Rice subpoena in secrets case
Fri Nov 2, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday approved subpoenas
for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and White House national
security adviser Stephen Hadley in the case of two former pro-Israel
lobbyists accused of disclosing national defense information.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, approved
nearly all of the subpoenas the defense requested for current or
former U.S. government officials, including Rice and Hadley, as
witnesses at the trial set for next year.
The defense had requested 20 subpoenas. U.S. government prosecutors
objected to 16 of them on the grounds the testimony would not be
important or favorable to the defense. The judge for the most part
rejected the government's arguments.
Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, former American Israel Public Affairs
Committee officials, are accused of conspiring with a former Pentagon
analyst to communicate national defense information to persons not
entitled to receive it, including foreign government officials, policy
analysts and the media.
The trial has been scheduled to begin in January.
Among the other subpoenas approved were for White House deputy
national security adviser Elliott Abrams, former Deputy Secretary of
State Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.
A former Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, has pleaded guilty in
the espionage case to disclosing information to Rosen and Weissman
from early 2002 through June 2004. Ellis also approved a subpoena for
Asked about the Rice subpoena, State Department spokesman Tom Casey
said, "We are not going to comment on an ongoing legal matter. I would
refer you to the Department of Justice."
A Justice Department spokesman had no comment.
The judge said the defense argued that the testimony of the
prospective witnesses will negate the government's contention that the
information involved the national defense.
The defense wanted to show the information was neither closely held by
the U.S. government nor were disclosures of it damaging to the United
States, the judge said.
Ellis said the defendants argued the testimony by the witnesses will
show their acts reflected nothing more than the well-established
official Washington practice of engaging in "back channel"
communications to advance U.S. foreign policy goals.
The defense argued that U.S. government officials regularly conveyed
sensitive, nonpublic information to the defendants and others at
AIPAC, with the expectation it would be disclosed to foreign
government officials and the news media.
Ellis said in the 19-page ruling that there is no indication that any
government agency will direct any current or former official to refuse
to comply with a subpoena.
IN NEW SIGN OF SUPPORT, AIPAC PAYS LEGAL FEES
Jewish Telegraph Agency
Former AIPAC Iran analyst Keith Weissman, center, leaves an Alexandria, Va., court in 2005.
WASHINGTON (JTA) AIPAC has agreed to pay legal fees for a former staffer who is accused of receiving and relaying classified information on Iran, the latest blow to the prosecution's efforts to isolate the defendants.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's about-face announcement
comes the same week as the judge in the Espionage Act case against two former AIPAC staffers argued that the pro-Israel lobby should be paying their legal fees.
A source close to AIPAC told JTA over the weekend that the organization would pay legal fees for Keith Weissman, AIPAC's former Iran analyst, "through appeal, if necessary."
The government alleges that Rosen and Weissman received classified information about Iran from a Pentagon analyst and relayed it to journalists, colleagues and Israeli diplomats. It's the first time that a statute of the 1917 Espionage Act criminalizing civilian use of classified information has been applied.
Defense sources confirm the deal between AIPAC and Arent Fox, the firm representing Weissman. There's no such deal yet with Abbe Lowell, who represents Weissman's co-defendant, Steve Rosen, but negotiations are under way.
One reason for the delay apparently is Lowell's recent switch from the Chadbourne Parke legal firm to McDermott Will and Emery. Lowell would have to work out a payment deal that would address claims by both firms.
AIPAC agreed to drop its condition that Weissman give up any right to sue the organization for wrongful firing, the principal factor that had blocked AIPAC from resuming fees until now.
The same week, Judge T.S. Ellis III, the federal judge trying the case, admonished the government for allegedly forcing AIPAC to cut legal funding for Weissman and Rosen, describing the policy as "unquestionably obnoxious."
It's the latest sign of trouble for prosecutors whom Ellis has rebuked for "novel" interpretations of the Constitution and for dragging their feet. It also comes as the establishment Jewish community appears more emboldened to stand by Weissman and Rosen, who had been isolated since they were fired in March 2005.
"These people have sat around indicted for years. They are entitled to a trial," Ellis said at a May 2 hearing, raising his voice when the prosecution asked for another extension to review classified materials. "You need to get with it now."
A firm trial date has yet to be set for Weissman and Rosen, who were indicted in August 2005.
Ellis' assumptions that the government forced AIPAC to cut off the defendants and that AIPAC had a contractual obligation to pay for their defense do not carry the weight of law because of his overall rejection of the defense's motion to dismiss, which alleged that the government had violated the defendants' Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
Ellis said lawyers for both men had performed more than adequately, even though they had not been paid for nearly two years.
"Owing to the professionalism and resources of these defense counsel, the adequacy of defendants' representation has not been impaired," he wrote.
The timing may be coincidental: Both AIPAC and defense sources say the lobby's agreement to fund Weissman's case was made about two weeks before Ellis published his decision. But it's the latest sign that the Jewish establishment is more willing to embrace Rosen and Weissman's cause.
Last week, the American Jewish Committee blasted the government for attempting to close the trial to public scrutiny, the first time an establishment Jewish group had formally addressed the case since indictments were handed down in August 2005.
"Closing the trial would inappropriately shroud the government's case in a veil of secrecy," said David Harris, AJCommittee's executive director. "Judge Ellis was correct when he recently noted that it is important to get it tried as soon as possible or not tried.' We commend Judge Ellis for insisting that the prosecution has an obligation to either expeditiously go forward with this case in a public venue open to all or, after nearly two years, re-evaluate the basis for its charges."
Last month the activist group AMCHA filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the government's motion to have a closed trial. Ellis rejected the brief but threw out the motion as unconstitutional.
The free-speech community is watching the case closely. Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy Project, was the first to post Ellis' most recent decision.
For the purpose of the decision, Ellis accepts the defendants' claim that AIPAC fired them and cut off their fees at the government's behest, something the lobby has always denied. The judge did not consult with AIPAC in drawing up the ruling.
The prosecutors never confirmed the claim, but their argument that such practices were legal led Ellis "to assume that the facts alleged by defendants are true and draw all reasonable factual inferences in their favor."
The defendants alleged that prosecutors applied a policy instituted in 2003 by Larry Thompson, then the deputy attorney general, in response to a string of financial scandals in which corporations were seen to be protecting corrupt executives. The policy assigned culpability to the corporations as long as they employed the defendants or paid their legal fees.
That policy, since discontinued, was "unquestionably obnoxious in general" and "fraught with the risk of constitutional harm," Ellis said.
AIPAC continued to maintain that Weissman and Rosen were fired for cause, not because of government pressure.
"AIPAC made all of its decisions in this case alone based on the facts of the situation and the organization's intention to do the right thing," Patrick Dorton, a consultant to the lobby, said after Ellis published his decision.
Ellis, who is trying the case in a federal district court in eastern Virginia, also found that under state law the defendants could credibly show that AIPAC had contracted to fund their defense by advancing fees for several months before cutting them off.
"Defendants had a colorable contract right to fee advances from AIPAC," Ellis said, using the legal term for "plausible" or "unfrivolous."
Dorton has said that Rosen and Weissman were fired in March 2005 because of information arising out of the case.
Embattled Aipac Lobbyists Take Divergent Paths
Weissman Dons Keffiyeh, Rosen Maintains Stance on Mideast
Wed. Sep 12, 2007
Washington - In this city, keffiyehs - the Arab headdresses closely associated with the Palestinian cause - are regular sights at Middle East-related events. But at an event last fall, one keffiyeh in particular drew stares and gasps.
The checkered scarf in question was wrapped around the neck of Keith Weissman, the man once recognized as a top analyst at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerhouse pro-Israel lobby. These days, of course, Weissman is better known as defendant No. 2 in United States v. Rosen and Weissman, a case in which he and another former Aipac analyst have been accused of handing over top-secret American documents to foreign officials and journalists. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The intertwining tales of powerful lobbyists and backroom Washington meetings have brought worldwide attention to the investigation and indictment. But less has been said about the surprising and very different paths taken by the two, as they adjust to life as unemployed, indicted defendants in the midst of a seemingly endless legal battle.
The Rosen-Weissman duo is usually mentioned as an inseparable pair, but, while the men remain close friends, people close to them say that they hold different views on many topics - starting with the hot-button issues on which they used to work. And although neither will speak to the press on advice of legal counsel, numerous conversations with friends and sources paint a vivid picture of their divergent paths post-indictment.
Rosen, the group's former policy director, continues to take a front-row seat at major foreign policy events and has positioned himself as a continuing presence in the ongoing debates about the Middle East. Weissman, on the other hand, has put a distance between himself and his former identity as a pre-eminent pro-Israel lobbyist.
Weissman has told friends that, free of the constraints posed by his employment by Aipac, he now sees himself as returning to his roots as a peace activist.
"I decided not to suppress my political views any longer," Weissman, age 55, told a friend, according to sources close to the situation.
In addition to the keffiyeh, this has meant sporting a longer haircut and the earring that his Aipac superiors asked him not to wear. He has also offered to volunteer with Americans for Peace Now and Human Rights Watch - though he was politely turned down, sources say, presumably because of the difficulty in associating with a person under indictment for espionage charges.
The saga began in August 2004, when the FBI raided Aipac's offices in Alexandria, Va. The following April, the two were dismissed by Aipac and a few months later they were indicted. The indictment charged both men with one count of conspiracy under the Espionage Act and Rosen with an additional count of passing classified information.
Lawyers for both Rosen and Weissman - they have separate legal teams - have said the charges are unfounded and that the activities in question are routine elements of the work of many lobbyists.
For Weissman, the first months of the current ordeal were apparently the worst. The firing and the accusations of breaking the espionage law led him to a personal crisis, friends said, causing an emotional breakdown for which he required psychological treatment.
Most of his contacts in the American administration, the Israeli government and Aipac itself have cut their ties with Weissman, sources say, and he himself has been careful not to initiate contact, fearing that others might end up in trouble. Many people who previously had contact with Rosen and Weissman told the Forward they were questioned by the FBI.
Without a job, Weissman now spends his time writing, walking his two golden retrievers and working out at the gym, according to friends. He helped his 17-year-old son study for his driving test and took his family to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But the lack of a job has taken a toll on Weissman, who friends say struggles with not having a schedule - "sometimes he doesn't even know what day it is," one noted. In addition, though his wife is a lawyer at a white-shoe law firm, the family is said to be concerned about funding college tuition for the eldest of their three children.
Rosen, 65, has encountered some similar problems, sources say. The lobbyist, whose Rolodex once included every major player on the Washington foreign policy scene, has suddenly found himself isolated. Last week, at a Washington think tank event, Rosen came across a colleague he had known for three decades. The two didn't even exchange greetings.
Rosen - who has three children, the youngest 8 years old - is now doing some part-time consulting work. According to media reports, he also relies financially on help from unnamed supporters, though sources say that some of those mentioned in the reports have since received calls from the FBI.
Rosen frequently described his job at Aipac as "my life's work," in which he invested endless hours and a great deal of personal commitment. Indeed, these days he is still trying to maintain his status as a leading expert on Middle East foreign policy by spending hours surfing the Internet for every tidbit of news and attending various briefings around the city.
Weissman, on the other hand, is described by people close to him as having always been to the left of Aipac's political line. As a graduate student at the University of Chicago, he used to drive around with a bumper sticker calling for a "free Palestine."
Weissman began working for the lobby shortly after the Oslo agreements were signed in the 1990s, and he focused mainly on issues related to the peace process. As the accord seemed to unravel, he moved on to deal with Iran and oil. Neverthless, within Aipac he was said to have developed a reputation for being critical of Israel's actions regarding the Palestinians.
"He was the lobby's leftist," an acquaintance said.
In addition to the political differences between Weissman and Rosen, friends say they have also developed different attitudes toward their trial, which is set to begin in January 2008. Rosen is said to be optimistic and believes that an acquittal is inevitable. Weissman, on the other hand, believes he is innocent but seems less hopeful to friends and observers.
But both are said to be thinking about life after the trial. Rosen does not rule out going back to his old job at Aipac, if acquitted, though it is not clear how possible that will be. The former policy director, who was a household name in the corridors of power, wishes to return to "doing something big," as sources close to him have said.
Rosen is also interested in dealing with another problem he claims surfaced during this case: the strong anti-Israel sentiment among individuals in Americas intelligence community, which he believes is what led to the investigation against him in the first place.
Weissman has, perhaps predictably, taken a more combative approach to his former employer. Friends say he is in the process of writing a tell-all book about the past few years. Sources say he recently waived an estimated $250,000 in lawyers' fees from Aipac in order to ensure that he would not be restricted in the future from criticizing the group.
Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for Aipac, said, "Aipac is fully paying for Keith Weissman's defense through appeal if necessary."
Weissman is also said to have become disenchanted with many on the left, who, driven by their resentment of Aipac, did not take on the free-speech issues raised by the case.
As for the future, Weissman's friends say he hopes to do work related to promoting Middle East peace or to focus on issues stemming from his personal encounter with what he sees as the government's attempts to limit public discourse on policy issues.
In the interim, the two defendants mark the time since the investigation began by watching their families grow older. Rosen's daughter started college the year the investigation began, and she is now close to graduation. Weissman's son started high school at the same time and is currently readying for his senior year. Friends say that the question in the Weissman family is who will graduate first: the father from his lengthy legal ordeal or the son from school. Weissman, who has clearly been pushed into a certain pessimism, is said to believe his son will be first.
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