Haaretz - Israel News - Four AIPAC officials asked to testify in FBI investigation
By Nathan Guttman
WASHINGTON - The FBI yesterday searched the offices here of the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), as part of its ongoing investigation into suspicions that Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin had made available sensitive documents to AIPAC members.
AIPAC was not surprised at the return of the FBI, with a request for more documents and computer files. But they were also presented with a subpoena ordering four senior officials appear before the grand jury investigating the affair.
The four are the AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr, research director Rafael Danziger, communications director Renee Rothstein and managing director Richard Fishman. Their testimony is expected by the end of the month, although no precise date has been given.
Agents of the FBI's counterintelligence unit, who are in charge of the investigation, collected documents and computer files belonging to two AIPAC officials considered central to the affair. The two are Steve Rosen, in charge of foreign policy at the lobby group, and Keith Weissman, who deals mostly with Iran.
Rosen and Weissman were questioned in late August by FBI investigators, when agents first searched the AIPAC offices. During that search, agents copied files from Rosen's computer.
The two AIPAC officials were mentioned in news reports as allegedly being the individuals to whom Larry Franklin passed secret information on U.S. policy on Iran. They are in turn believed to have forwarded the information to Israel.
FBI spokesmen refused yesterday to answer questions about why the four AIPAC officials were called to testify, saying that details are classified. But observers hypothesized that the FBI is not trying to expand its investigation against AIPAC but to gather more information on which to base its case against Franklin.
The four subpoenaed witnesses deal with the day-to-day running of AIPAC, and it is expected that they will be asked to explain how the lobby group functions and its perception of the thin line between unofficial conversations with government officials and receiving classified information.
This is in effect the heart of the investigation that began three years ago. A number of officials behind the probe believe that AIPAC crosses the allowable limits and that it illegally receives secret information.
However, AIPAC officials contend, as do diplomats and other lobbyists in Washington, that this is a normal part of the ongoing contact, on an unofficial level, between lobbyists and U.S. government officials.
During the early stages of the investigation, the FBI sought to gather information on Larry Franklin indirectly from AIPAC. They presented their queries as an attempt to evaluate Franklin's security clearance on the eve of a possible promotion in the administration.
The investigators posed many questions on Franklin's personality and links with AIPAC, but never revealed that they were carrying out an investigation against him.
The real aim of the FBI was revealed only after the case broke in the news in August. At that point the Franklin ceased his cooperation with the FBI investigators in the case.
The case now also involves a grand jury investigation, parallel to the FBI counterintelligence operation.
What is still unclear is whether any charges will be brought against Franklin and if so, whether he will be charged with espionage or a lesser crime.
Sources close to the investigation say it is unlikely that any AIPAC officials will be charged, and that the latest FBI foray into the lobby's offices signals a final attempt to gather information prior to ending the probe."