Friday, March 10, 2006

How to Fix the AIPAC Espionage Mess

How to Fix the AIPAC Espionage Mess

Jewish Journal North of Boston March 10, 2006

Three men sit humiliated in Washington, D.C. today because their jobs and reputations have been destroyed. Their legal costs are mounting beyond ten (or 20) year’s salary, and one of them is already sentenced to jail time.

No, I am not talking about Jack Abramoff or Congressmen Tom DeLay or Randy Cunningham.

I am talking about Lawrence Anthony Franklin, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman.

On Jan. 20, Franklin, a Defense Department Middle East analyst, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on three counts of passing classified military information about Iran and Iraq to Rosen and Weissman. (Franklin is not Jewish.)

Franklin is expected, as part of a reduced sentence, to testify at the trial of Rosen and Weissman, both former senior staff members at AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. The pair are charged with passing classified information to reporters and the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The Rosen-Weissman trial begins next month.

Here’s the story:

Though it has not been disclosed how, FBI agents learned that Franklin had met with AIPAC staffers and confronted him, without a lawyer present, on June 30, 2004. Franklin agreed, in return for a reduction in the charges against him, to sting the AIPAC staff members by sharing information about a bogus Iranian plan to capture Israeli agents.

Let’s get real. Washington is a city filled with people talking government policy programs every day of the week. Restaurants would be half empty without that business. Thousands of registered lobbyists would be out of jobs.

While bribing legislators is the domain of very few, some 90 plus percent (who knows the exact percentage?) of some 30,000 registered lobbyists work to support or oppose government programs by providing information to Congress, newspaper reporters and think-tank academics.

Any day of the week, a Medicare official lunches with the AARP, a Department of Energy wind turbine scientist with some senior Sierra Club staff, state department officials with a Washington Post columnist.

Officials want their policies understood and supported; lobbies want their members to know how close they are to the pulse of government. Journalists want background information and scoops. Think-tank fellows want timely and relevant information.

The line between official secrets and what already appeared in some publication, or was mentioned at a Georgetown dinner party, or already discussed on C-Span, is often very blurry.

Franklin didn’t ask for money, as most spies do, and none was offered. Discussions were held in open, public places, not at 2 a.m. in a deserted underground garage. Franklin apparently thought the pro-Israel lobby could be an ally against the growing threat of Iran.

The sting itself is suspect. Would you or I have acted differently and not passed along information to save the life of an agent of a friendly country? No citizen who was not a government employee has ever before been charged with giving classified information to a third party, as Rosen and Weissman now are.

Let’s get back to the FBI’s handling of the case. Apparently the people involved in the sting feared that, if the top brass in the Justice Department or White House knew the details, they might quash the investigation. So, less than two months after the first direct encounter with Franklin, the information was leaked to the press and made front-page news.

If it weren’t so serious it would be a bad joke: FBI officials running a case charging three men with leaking government information leaked government information themselves.

Now is the time for President Bush or Attorney General Gonzales to end this totally embarrassing and needless government action and drop the charges against Franklin, Rosen and Weissman. These three men, in my judgment, did not commit espionage and should not be dishonored, impoverished and jailed.


At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the indictment is correct, the two AIPAC officials were engaged in a conspiracy to obtain classified information. They were videotaped and recorded doing this. Regardless of one's sympathy for their motives, if they have violated the espionage acts, then they should be punished. If the indictment is true, then they have done irreparable harm to Israel's interests and reputation in Washington because they have put a "stay away" sticker on anyone who works for AIPAC. This is very unfortunate.


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