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August 5, 2005
Two More AIPAC Officials Charged

The Israeli-American relationship will go through even more strain after federal prosecutors announced indictments for two more former officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on charges of transmitting classified information overseas. The two, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, join Larry Franklin as targets of the investigation, and Israel now acknowledges that investigators have formally contacted their embassy for further probing into the matter:

Two former employees of an influential pro-Israel lobbying group were indicted yesterday on charges that they illegally received and passed on classified information to foreign officials and reporters over a period of five years, part of a case that has complicated relations between the United States and one of its closest allies.

Although no foreign government is named in the indictment, U.S. government sources have identified Israel as the country at the center of the probe. The Israeli Embassy in Washington also confirmed yesterday that it has been "approached" by investigators in the case. ...

Former AIPAC director of foreign policy issues Steven J. Rosen, 63, of Silver Spring was indicted on two counts related to unlawful disclosure of "national defense information" obtained from Franklin and other unidentified government officials since 1999 on topics including Iran, Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda. A former AIPAC analyst, Keith Weissman, 53, of Bethesda, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to illegally communicate classified information. ...

The indictment alleges that, beginning in April 1999, Rosen and, later, Weissman sought to influence people in the United States government, including Franklin, with whom they first met in February 2003, and used those contacts to gather sensitive and classified information.

With three of its former officers now facing prosecution for espionage activities, although the government seems unwilling so far to actually charge these three with outright espionage, it appears that the USAG's office has concluded that AIPAC may be nothing more than a front for the Mossad. The approach to the Israeli Enbassy seems significant; they must have an idea who the three used as a contact to help move the information back to Israel and want some cooperation on identifying the handler. Perhaps they already know the identity and simply want Israel to get him or her out of the country. If the handler carries diplomatic credentials, which seems likely, then it makes sense to quietly declare him or her persona non grata and allow Israel to resolve the situation with a minimum of fuss.

Some will protest this effort to chase after Israeli "interests" in the US while our ally fights an existential battle against groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. They will say that the US almost certainly spies on its allies -- they're almost certainly correct about that -- and that all this does is to feed anti-Israel conspiracy theorists. But they're wrong to argue that we should allow our friends to simply raid our classified material at their leisure, no matter what circumstances they're in, and letting Israel and her agents get away with this type of activity when it comes to light would eventually undermine our partnership as it would paint us as nothing more than stooges for Ariel Sharon.

We gather classified information in order to secure the United States and protect its citizens. If such information needs to be shared with any other foreign service, that decision has to be made at the political level through the proper channels. Those decisions cannot be left at the whims of the the people who must be trusted to process and protect the information, or else classification means nothing any more. When people breach that trust, the US needs to prosecute them vigorously to send a message of complete intolerance for breaking that trust.

If that applies to Sandy Berger, and it should, then it certainly applies to AIPAC and the three officials, if these charges can be proven.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 5, 2005 5:37 AM

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