By Phillip Giraldi
Former top AIPAC official claims to have â€œabout 180â€ documents that demonstrate that classified information was regularly collected by AIPAC and given to the Israeli Embassy with full knowledge of the organizationâ€™s Director Kohr and other senior officials
Philip Giraldi – Reports of surfing porn sites and frequenting prostitutes is not what one expects to read regarding the leadership of Washingtonâ€™s most powerful foreign policy lobby.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is embroiled in a court battle with its former Director of Foreign Policy Issues Steven Rosen, who is claiming that AIPAC first unfairly fired then slandered and libeled him, publicly denouncing him for not exhibiting â€œthe conduct that AIPAC expects from its employees.â€ He is seeking total damages of $20 million…
Defeat for AIPAC could have major consequences beyond a sudden shortage of donors, including increasing demands for the group to register as a foreign lobby and even criminal charges relating to the passage of classified information to Israel, an offense under the Espionage Act. Some have even predicted that the trial could spin out of control, with proliferating charges and counter-charges leading to the effective dismantling of AIPAC…
…Rosen and his AIPAC colleague Keith Weissman were charged under the Espionage Act in 2003, after the FBI made the case that they had obtained classified information from Pentagon employee Larry Franklin and passed it on to Israeli diplomats and to journalist Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post.
In 2005, the two men were fired by AIPAC in spite of initial pledges of support. The trial, sometimes referred to as AIPACgate, dragged on until May 1, 2009, when it was finally dismissed after the government could not make its case due to adverse decisions by the presiding Judge T. S. Ellis, possibly acting under pressure from the White House to end the proceedings.
At the time, as the centerpiece of his defense, Rosen claimed somewhat ominously that passing classified information obtained from government contacts was business as usual in Washington. He asked that high level witnesses including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, former Defense Department officials Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, and Richard L. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state all be called on to testify that confidential information was frequently given to AIPAC for discreet passage to the Israeli Embassy.
Rosenâ€™s lawyers also demanded access to numerous government documents to assist them in making their case. Many of those documents would have themselves been classified, eventually leading government prosecutors to abandon their attempts at a conviction in the belief that more damage would be done by proceeding than in dropping the case.
Rosen and Weissman were not, however, either exonerated or acquitted, an indication that the government lawyers believed the prosecution to be a sound one.
Dismissing Rosen was a bad move by AIPAC as he has since worked hard to get his revenge.
Recent moves and countermoves by Rosen and AIPAC have included a 260-page motion by AIPAC filed on November 8th that interestingly makes the case in some detail that Rosen engaged in espionage while distancing AIPAC itself from any involvement. The intention is clearly to demonstrate that Rosen and Weissman were a rogue operation, not sanctioned by their employer.
The motion also incorporates a lengthy deposition of Rosen in which he describes his own sexual â€œexperimentationsâ€ with both men and women, some of whom were discovered on Craigslist. Rosen also recounts how pornography was regularly viewed and even saved on AIPAC computers by a number of senior employees, including Director Howard Kohr and his secretary, and there were visits to prostitutes by AIPAC officials.
Rosen is expected to counter the AIPAC November filing with his own motion later this month and there will be an obligatory mediation session with the presiding judge in mid January. The cycle of attacks and rebuttals has not done much to help AIPACâ€™s reputation, already tarnished by the long running Rosen-Weissman trial that led to the lawsuit and there are reports that donations have declined by 15%, with a number of major contributors like Haim Saban having opted instead to help Rosen financially.
Rosen contends that his betrayal by AIPAC was motivated by a desire to avoid criminal charges against its executives…
On February 16, 2005, AIPACâ€™s counsel said that the lead federal prosecutor `is fighting with the FBI to limit the investigation to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman and to avoid expanding it.â€™ This warning implied that AIPACâ€™s Executive Director and the AIPAC organization as a whole could become targets.â€
And there is a much bigger story lurking in the background, though no one is quite sure who holds the cards and how it might play out, involving the regular provision of top level classified information from AIPAC to the Israeli government and to the media.
The November AIPAC motion and the Rosen deposition inadvertently demonstrate the close ties between AIPAC and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, recording as they do the details of numerous meetings with diplomats and intelligence officers in which secret information was passed. For AIPAC to win its war of words with Rosen it must demonstrate that he was indeed guilty of espionage with â€œa foreign countryâ€ while distancing itself from his activities and also at the same time keeping Israel out of the story insofar as possible.
Rosen must turn the tables on AIPAC by proving that it was completely collaborative in the collection and delivery of intelligence material to foreigners. He intends to replay his planned defense in the Espionage Act trial, asserting that passing classified information was a regular and accepted feature of life in Washington, particularly for those who worked to advance Israelâ€™s interests.
Rosen claims to have â€œabout 180â€ documents that demonstrate that classified information was regularly collected by AIPAC and given to the Israeli Embassy with full knowledge of the organizationâ€™s Director Kohr and other senior officials, something that they have denied under oath.
He also claims that depositions of FBI agents who questioned AIPAC officials will demonstrate that the collection and use of classified information was routine, generally known, and widely accepted within AIPAC. Rosen also has given signs that he might broaden the inquiry.
In September 2009, he filed a list of 48 prospective witnesses that might be called to testify that included: Douglas Bloomfield, Morris Amitay, Thomas Dine, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Martin Indyk, David Satterfield, Kenneth Pollack, Malcolm Hoenlein, and Abraham Foxman. All are major figures in the Israel Lobby. The intent would appear to be to demonstrate that passing secrets to the Israeli government was standard operating procedure for many groups and individuals linked to the Lobby, not just AIPAC.
It will also motivate the groups that the men represent to put pressure on AIPAC to settle the case with Rosen, at whatever cost.
What is ultimately at stake is AIPACâ€™s powerful mystique, derived from its status as a foreign lobby posing as a domestic lobby that is so untouchable that it does not have to register with the Justice Department or play by anyoneâ€™s rules but its own. The charge of trading in US government classified information, even if the Barack Obama administration predictably opts not to prosecute the criminal activity, would render disingenuous the argument that AIPAC should not have to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because it only operates domestically and its focus is educational. It could also lose its completely bogus non-profit tax exempt status.
But those who see a dark future for AIPAC fail to reckon with the strengths of the organization, to include an endowment fund of $50 million that can be tapped in emergencies.
It continues to be extremely powerful at all levels within the Barack Obama Administration and with congress. AIPAC has resources deep within the Justice Department, which will make sure that it is advised of every impending move against it and that will do everything they can to impede any investigation that might lead to criminal charges or to registration under FARA. And then there is the media role or rather the lack of one.
The mainstream media assiduously avoided the story of the Rosen-Weissman trial and it has not reported on the Rosen AIPAC lawsuit apart from few brave souls like Jeff Stein in his Spy Talk at The Washington Post. If the federal government prefers not to investigate or prosecute a clear violation of the law and if the media does not report the failure to do so the public will once again be kept in the dark. It could mean that those who long for the death of AIPAC might well be disappointed.
Philip Giraldi is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest. This article is published in full in an upcoming issue of American Conservative magazine. Original title: â€œThe End of AIPAC?â€