Tuesday, May 8, 2007

AIPAC on Trial

The lobby argues that good Americans spy for Israel.

by Justin Raimondo

"Is there a First Amendment right to engage in espionage? Dorothy Rabinowitz seems to think so. Describing the actions of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former top officials of AIPAC, the premier Israel lobbying group, who passed purloined intelligence to Israeli government officials, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist characterized them as “activities that go on every day in Washington, and that are clearly protected under the First Amendment.” If what Rabinowitz says is true—if passing classified information to foreign officials is routine in the nation’s capital—then we are all in big trouble.

On Aug. 4, 2005, Rosen, Weissman, and Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin were indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with violating provisions of the Espionage Act that forbid divulging national defense information to persons not authorized to receive it. The indictment traces the treasonous trio’s circuitous path as they met in the shadows—in empty restaurants, at Union Station in Washington, on street corners. Rosen and Weissman sought out and cultivated Franklin, milking him for information that they dutifully transmitted to their Israeli handlers. According to Rabinowitz, however, they were merely “doing what they had every reason to view as their jobs”—which is true, assuming they understood their jobs to be spying for Israel......

Tell not sell: unlike the majority of post-Cold War spies, the AIPAC-Franklin espionage ring wasn’t centered around financial gain but ideology. Franklin is a dedicated neoconservative, a minor yet key player in the neocon network, who served in the military attache’s office in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in the late 1990s and was a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst with expertise in Iranian affairs working in Douglas Feith’s policy shop.

The counter-intelligence unit was hot on Franklin’s trail, and they watched his every move—his wholesale transfer of top-secret information on Iran, al-Qaeda, and other intelligence of interest to Israel to Rosen and Weissman, who funneled it to their contacts in the Israeli Embassy. The FBI gave Franklin enough rope to hang himself, and then moved in, showing up at his door and confronting him with his treachery. A search of his home and office turned up a veritable lending library of classified documents dating back years, all of which had doubtless been made available to the Israelis. Faced with the probability of a long prison stretch, Franklin agreed to wear a wire to his subsequent meetings with Rosen and Weissman. In the months that followed, the FBI built its case, recording conversations and following the AIPAC duo......

In light of Judge Ellis’s recent ruling that in this trial the Espionage Act is going to be interpreted narrowly and that the burden is on the prosecution to show that the defendants knowingly harmed U.S. national security interests, the defense might be expected to make a pitch similar to Berenbaum’s—that, instead of prosecuting Rosen and Weissman, we ought to be pinning medals on their chests.

The AIPAC defendants weren’t spies, they were merely ahead of the curve, anticipating the day when a distinction is no longer being made between American and Israeli interests. That is the line we are hearing, as the curtain goes up on the trial of Rosen and Weissman. Whether the jury or the public falls for it remains to be seen."

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