Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Two Charged in Pentagon Information Leak - Yahoo! News

Two Charged in Pentagon Information Leak - Yahoo! News "Two Charged in Pentagon Information Leak By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 3 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Two former employees of a pro- Israel lobbying organization were charged Thursday with conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. defense information for five years.

A five-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., named Steven Rosen, formerly the director of foreign policy issues for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Keith Weissman, the organization's former senior Iran analyst.

The charges follow the indictment in June of Pentagon analyst Lawrence A. Franklin, who is accused of leaking classified military information to an Israeli official and the AIPAC employees.

The lengthy FBI investigation that led to Thursday's charges has been closely followed in Washington, where AIPAC is an influential interest group. The case also has served as a reminder of a tense time in U.S.-Israeli relations: the 1985 spy scandal in which civilian Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard was caught spying for Israel.

The government is not accusing Franklin, Rosen and Weissman of espionage, although the FBI has questioned at least one Israeli official and also wants to talk to Naor Gilon, who recently returned to Israel after a stint as a senior diplomat in the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Israeli Embassy spokesman David Siegel said his country's diplomats have done nothing wrong. "We've seen no information to suggest anything to the contrary," Siegel said.

He acknowledged that U.S. officials have asked about questioning Gilon. "We've expressed our willingness to cooperate," he said.

Rosen, a top AIPAC lobbyist for 23 years, and Weissman disclosed sensitive information as far back as 1999 on a variety of topics, including al-Qaida, terrorist activities in Central Asia, the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and U.S. policy in Iran, the indictment said. Among their contacts were U.S. and foreign government officials and reporters, the indictment said.

One unanswered question is how the men might have obtained classified material before they met Franklin, who specialized in Iranian and Middle Eastern affairs, in 2003. While the indictment suggests that at least two other U.S. government officials also were sources of classified information, no other charges are planned at this time, U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said at a news conference in Alexandria.

McNulty said the men apparently were motivated by a desire to advance their personal agendas and careers by trading on prized information. "The facts alleged today tell a story of individuals who put their own interests and their own views of foreign policy ahead of American national security," McNulty said.

Rosen, 63, of Silver Spring, Md.; Weissman, 53, of Bethesda, Md.; and Franklin, 58, of Kearneysville, W.Va., are scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 16 in Alexandria.

"The charges in the indictment announced today are entirely unjustified," said Abbe Lowell, Rosen's attorney. John Nassikas, Weissman's lawyer, said, "We are disappointed that the government has decided to pursue these charges, which Mr. Weissman strongly denies."

Franklin previously pleaded innocent, but Thursday's indictment dropped one charge against him and he will be re-arraigned on the others. Prosecutors did not explain why they dropped the charge of communicating classified information to someone not authorized to receive it.

Plato Cacheris, Franklin's lawyer, said he had been expecting additional charges. He said Franklin cooperated with investigators for three months in 2004.

The investigation has been under way since at least 2001 and has included use of sophisticated electronic surveillance techniques, law enforcement officials have said. The indictment suggests that investigators were listening in on Rosen as far back as 1999, because the indictment includes a purported snippet of a conversation he had with an unidentified foreign official.

For the past two years, the FBI has focused on whether Franklin passed classified U.S. material on Iran and other matters to AIPAC, and whether that group in turn passed it on to Israel. Both AIPAC and Israel deny any wrongdoing. AIPAC fired Rosen and Weissman in April. "The organization does not seek, use or request anything but legally obtained appropriate information as part of its work," AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton said.

Israel has said it imposed a ban on espionage in the United States after the Pollard scandal. He was sentenced to life in prison. That case damaged U.S.-Israeli relations and remains a sore point between the countries.

Associated Press reporter Matthew Barakat in Alexandria, Va., contributed to this report"


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