Dual Loyalties

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Jun. 18, 2005 12:39 | Updated Jun. 18, 2005 12:59
Indictments expected in AIPAC spy case
By RON KAMPEAS AND MATTHEW BERGER (JTA)

WASHINGTON

Two former staffers at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee facing indictment on espionage charges shared allegedly classified information at the crux of the case against them with AIPAC's executive director as soon as they received it, JTA has learned.

Howard Kohr had no idea that the information in the July 21, 2004 e-mail from Keith Weissman, then AIPAC's Iran analyst, was classified, multiple sources said, and the government has told AIPAC that Kohr is not the subject of any investigation. Kohr did not further disseminate the information, sources familiar with the events said.

A spokesman for AIPAC categorically denied any wrongdoing.

"No current employee of AIPAC knew that classified information was obtained from Larry Franklin," the Pentagon analyst who allegedly gave Weissman the information, "or was involved in the dissemination of such information," spokesman Patrick Dorton said. "AIPAC does not seek, use or request anything but legal and appropriate information as part of its work."

Weissman and Steve Rosen, AIPAC's former policy director, could be indicted this month or next for allegedly passing information to an Israeli Embassy official, Naor Gilon, the chief political officer. AIPAC fired Weissman and Rosen in March because of information it says arose out of the investigation.

The government is considering a public arrest of Rosen, sources say, a signal of the tough posture it plans to take on the case. Such hardball tactics — which included two public raids of AIPAC offices — have prompted new criticism and questions from Jewish leaders.

Some fear that the case will inhibit the functioning of Jewish organizations and others that deal with the executive branch.

"Not just Jewish organizations, but lobbyists in general," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Lawyers will be telling their clients, 'Let's look at practices.'"

The revelation of the e-mail to Kohr raises major questions about the intentions of Rosen and Weissman in obtaining and sharing the allegedly classified information. The FBI knows about the e-mail, sources told JTA, and its existence apparently was the subject of much scrutiny by a grand jury convened in January to consider the case.

The apparent rush by Weissman and Rosen to tell their boss the new information could reinforce the defense contention that they were not lone wolves bent on espionage, as sources close to the defense believe the government plans to argue, but lobbyists sharing inside information, as was their job. That is to be the crux of the two men's defense, sources said.

It also raises the question of why AIPAC fired Rosen and Weissman after months of defending their integrity. Some AIPAC donors and Jewish community leaders have asked whether it was appropriate for the organization to fire the two if the acts at the center of the investigation were part of their daily routine as lobbyists.

However, a source close to AIPAC suggested that what the men did was far from routine.

"Rosen and Weissman were dismissed because they engaged in conduct that was not part of their job and was beneath the standards of what AIPAC expects of their employees," the source said.

Franklin, the Pentagon Iran analyst who allegedly told Weissman that Israelis believed to be in northern Iraq faced grave danger, pled not guilty June 13 to relaying classified information to Rosen, Weissman and Gilon at on earlier occasions.

Sources close to the defense say the US attorney's office in northern Virginia plans on an aggressive prosecution, especially of Rosen. Prosecutors have indicated they want Rosen arrested and "perp walked" — led into the courthouse in handcuffs — for the cameras, the sources say, and may object to bail."

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