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The AIPAC Spy Story

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Felony Indictments.  The End of AIPAC? 

The indictment of Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen of AIPAC who may yet stand trial (the latest trial date was fixed at the end of April '08, but has not been postponed yet again, and no trial date is set.) accused of passing U.S. national security information to a foreign government agents (Israel) is potentially the story of how aipac will fall.  Rosen was not a mere employee, but widely believed to be the man who built AIPAC into the $60 million powerhouse it is today.  The greatest fear among AIPAC supporters is that convictions could lead to the requiring aipac to register as foreign agents.  aipac closely coordinates policy with the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC and the Israeli government, making it an agent of a foreign government.  AIPAC should not be allowed to keep its 501(c)(3) tax-deductible charitable status, but should be required to register as a lobbyist for a foreign agent.  This would greatly cripple its role in US politics. 

This is a copy of the indictment.

This whole affair was brought about by the actions of a group of war hawks, including AIPAC, to encourage a military attack against Iran. 


Update: Judge Ellis has said that Condi Rice must testify.

Rosen/Weissman "defense"?  They are not denying that Rosen and Weissman had in their possession documents that were illegally given to them by Franklin.  They are not asserting that they did not give these documents to a "foreign government" not authorized to have possession of them. They are saying this was regular procedure for AIPAC.

Attorneys for the two former lobbyists said they welcomed the ruling.

"For over two years, we have been explaining that our clients' conduct was lawful and completely consistent with how the U.S. government dealt with AIPAC and other foreign policy groups," the two lawyers, Abbe D. Lowell and John Nassikas, said in a joint statement. "We are gratified that the judge has agreed that the defense has the right to prove these points by calling the Secretary of State and all of these other government officials as our witnesses." 
Washington Post, November 3, 2007

Read the Judge's ruling that orders Rice and several other administration officials to testify.

AIPAC was target of Criminal Probe, forced to cut ties to defendants in spy case.  AIPAC had previously denied this. 
Franklin Sentenced to 12 years
Judge Deals Setback for Aipac Defendants Feb, 2007
Escalation of US Iran military planning part of six-year Administration push
January 2007
How the leak of top secret data was part of an effort to encourage military conflict with Iran.
Bigger Than AIPAC, August 2005 
Robert Dreyfuss 

Feds Eyeballed AIPAC

Ron Kampeas
JTA Wire Service

MARCH 29, 2007

The FBI was considering expanding its investigation into AIPAC and classified information leaks in early 2005 when the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse fired two staffers already under scrutiny, according to court documents.

In a memorandum filed last Sept. 22 and unsealed last week, defense lawyers for Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst, claimed for the first time that the FBI had considered expanding its criminal investigation.

AIPAC's March 2005 firing of Rosen and Weissman, and its decision several months later to stop paying their legal fees, headed off the expanded investigation, according to the sworn defense filing. The filing stems from a defense effort to force AIPAC to resume paying legal fees.

The memorandum describes a Feb. 16, 2005 conversation between Abbe Lowell, Rosen's lawyer, and Nathan Lewin, AIPAC's lawyer.

The U.S. Attorney in eastern Virginia at the time, Paul McNulty, "would like to end it with minimal damage to AIPAC," the document quotes Lewin as telling Lowell. "He is fighting with the FBI to limit the investigation to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman and to avoid expanding it."

The filing is compiled from notes by the defense lawyers. The Lewin-Lowell conversation took place during a conference call, according to the memorandum.

The claim is significant because until that September filing, the defense allegation of government pressure was confined to a procedural threat: a Justice Department policy dating to 2003 that makes corporations culpable for the alleged crimes of their indicted employees unless the corporation cuts off those employees.  More

Escalation of US Iran military planning part of six-year Administration push

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane, Raw Story 
Excerpts from very informative article. 

The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

While Iran was named a part of President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, efforts to ignite a confrontation with Iran date back long before the post-9/11 war on terror. Presently, the Administration is trumpeting claims that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the CIA’s own analysis shows and positing Iranian influence in Iraq’s insurgency, but efforts to destabilize Iran have been conducted covertly for years, often using members of Congress or non-government actors in a way reminiscent of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

The motivations for an Iran strike were laid out as far back as 1992. In classified defense planning guidance – written for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by then-Pentagon staffers I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, World Bank Chief Paul Wolfowitz, and ambassador-nominee to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad – Cheney’s aides called for the United States to assume the position of lone superpower and act preemptively to prevent the emergence of even regional competitors. The draft document was leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post and caused an uproar among Democrats and many in George H. W. Bush’s Administration.


Almost immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Iran became a focal point of discussion among senior Administration officials. As early as December 2001, then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and the leadership of the Defense Department, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, allegedly authorized a series of meetings between Defense Department officials and Iranian agents abroad.

The first of these meetings took place in Rome with Pentagon Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, Middle East expert Harold Rhode, and prominent neoconservative Michael Ledeen. Ledeen, who held no official government position, introduced the US officials to Iran-Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. According to both Ghorbanifar and Ledeen, the topic on the table was Iran. Ledeen told RAW STORY last year the discussion concerned allegations that Iranian forces were killing US soldiers in Afghanistan, but Ghorbanifar has claimed the conversation focused on regime change.

In January 2002, evidence that Iran was enriching uranium began to appear via credible intelligence and satellite imagery. Despite this revelation – and despite having called Iran part of the Axis of Evil in his State of the Union that year – President Bush continued to focus on Iraq. Perhaps for that reason, throughout 2002 the strongest pressure for regime change flowed through alternative channels.

In early 2002, Ledeen formed the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, along with Morris Amitay, the former executive director of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

In August 2002, Larry Franklin began passing classified information involving United States policy towards Iran to two AIPAC employees and an Israeli diplomat. Franklin pleaded guilty to the charges in October 2005, explaining that he had been hoping to force the US to take a harder line with Iran, but AIPAC and Israel have continued to deny them.

At the same time, another group’s political representatives begin a corollary effort to influence domestic political discourse. In August 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran – a front for a militant terrorist organization called Mujahedin-E-Khalq (MEK) – held a press conference in Washington and stated that Iran had a secret nuclear facility at Natanz, due for completion in 2003.  ( much more)

Bigger Than AIPAC

Robert Dreyfuss August 09, 2005

Important new details of the U.S.-Israeli espionage case involving Larry Franklin, the alleged Pentagon spy, two officials of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and an intelligence official at the Embassy of Israel emerged last week. Two AIPAC officials—who have left the organization—were indicted along with Franklin on charges of "communicat[ing] national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it." In plain English, if not legal-speak, that means spying.

But as the full text of the indictment makes clear, the conspiracy involved not just Franklin and the AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but at least several other Pentagon officials who played intermediary roles, at least two other Israeli officials, and one official at a "Washington, D.C. think tank." It's an old-fashioned spy story involving the passing of secret documents, hush-hush meetings and outright espionage, along with good-old-boy networking.

But the network tied to the "Franklin case"—which ought to be called the "AIPAC case," since it was AIPAC that was really under investigation by the FBI—provides an important window into a shadowy world. It is clear that by probing the details of the case, the FBI has got hold of a dangerous loose end of much larger story. By pulling on that string hard enough, the FBI and the Justice Department might just unravel that larger story, which is beginning to look more and more like it involves the same nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well.   [More]  

The Plot thickens.  Jane Harman & AIPAC

From Time magazine:

Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government.

The sources tell TIME that the investigation by Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has simmered out of sight since about the middle of last year, is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman's behalf. Harman said Thursday in a voicemail message that any investigation of — or allegation of improper conduct by — her would be "irresponsible, laughable and scurrilous." On Friday, Washington GOP super lawyer Ted Olson left voicemail messages underscoring that Harman has no knowledge of any investigation. "Congresswoman Harman has asked me to follow up on calls you've had," Olson said. "She is not aware of any such investigation, does not believe that it is occurring, and wanted to make sure that you and your editors knew that as far as she knows, that's not true... . No one from the Justice Department has contacted her." It is not, however, a given that Harman would know that she is under investigation. In a follow-up phone call from California, Olson said Harman hired him this morning because she takes seriously the possibility of a media report about an investigation of her, even though she does not believe it herself.

The case is a spin-off of a probe that has already led to charges under the Espionage Act against two AIPAC lobbyists, whose case is still pending, and to a 12-and-a-half-year prison sentence for former Defense Intelligence Agency official Lawrence A. Franklin. Franklin pleaded guilty a year ago to three felony counts involving improper disclosure and handling of classified information about the Middle East and terrorism to the two lobbyists, who in turn are accused of passing it on to a journalist and a foreign government, widely believed to be Israel. [More]

(Since that story was published in mid-October, Speaker -to-be Pelosi has announced that  Rep. Silvestre Reyes, also a firm supporter of AIPAC,  will head the Intelligence Committee in the House, not Jane Harman. )