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Washington - U.S. Drops Spy Case Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists

Published on: May 1, 2009 10:47 AM
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Rosen (L)and Weissman (R)Rosen (L)and Weissman (R)

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.

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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.


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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 01, 2009 at 10:10 AM Anonymous Says:

I have great respect for the new Attorney General Holder for dropping this case when he realized it was not going to be a viable prosecution. He did the same several weeks ago in dropping the charges against Sen Steven for prosecutorial misconduct. Some were too quick to criticize him when he was nominated.

2

 May 01, 2009 at 10:08 AM Anonymous Says:

bh

3

 May 01, 2009 at 10:37 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

I have great respect for the new Attorney General Holder for dropping this case when he realized it was not going to be a viable prosecution. He did the same several weeks ago in dropping the charges against Sen Steven for prosecutorial misconduct. Some were too quick to criticize him when he was nominated.

Kudos to AG Holder for doing the right thing -- twice.

Next he should drop charges against former Alabama Gov. Siegelman.

4

 May 01, 2009 at 10:43 AM bigwheeel Says:

...The Gov't. source/s that revealed the "secret" information to Messrs. Rosen and Weissman should be prosecuted, if anyone is going to be. The moment they received the information it automatically lost its secret status! They were neither Government officials nor did they have "Clearance"! Not that they did the right thing by further revealing the information! But bringing them up on charges will do more harm than good!!!

5

 May 01, 2009 at 11:28 AM Anonymous Says:

This was a pure witchhunt, I wonder what it cost them

6

 May 01, 2009 at 01:53 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #3  
Charlie Hall Says:

Kudos to AG Holder for doing the right thing -- twice.

Next he should drop charges against former Alabama Gov. Siegelman.

...I know another Mr. Siegelman who would benefit from charges being dropped by the Attorney General !!!

7

 May 01, 2009 at 12:33 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

I have great respect for the new Attorney General Holder for dropping this case when he realized it was not going to be a viable prosecution. He did the same several weeks ago in dropping the charges against Sen Steven for prosecutorial misconduct. Some were too quick to criticize him when he was nominated.

Not to minimize him, do you really think that he calls the shots? There is much more here then meets the eye; this time for the good.

8

 May 01, 2009 at 04:06 PM ShatzMatz Says:

What idiots those Bush Administration Justice Dept officials were. They go on a political witch hunt, and what does it get them? Now at a time when the Iran crisis is coming to a head they could have used the expertise of Larry Franklin and Rosen/Weissman to deal with it. Instead they have three broken lives, wasted government resources and eggs on their faces. For shame!

9

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