Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Thursday, September 29, 2005

With Friends Like These By Erik Sass

: "With Friends Like These By Erik Sass

Posted September 2005
An Iranian group has killed American civilians, allied itself with Saddam Hussein, and holds a spot on the State Department’s terrorist watch list. So why might it become America’s newest friend in the Middle East? Hint: Tehran.

In August 2002, intelligence reports revealed secret nuclear facilities in the Iranian cities of Natanz and Arak. The revelation left officials in Tehran speechless, in large part because the evidence was not gathered by the United States or any of its allies. Rather, the courier of such sensitive intelligence was the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), a decades-old Iranian dissident group. In most cases, dissident groups who could work so effectively within rogue states would be natural friends with Washington. But in the case of the MEK, it’s more complicated: The U.S. State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist organization.

There is no doubt the group has a darkly violent past. The MEK opposed Iran’s Shah in the 1970s, and during its militant opposition, killed U.S. military and civilian personnel in Iran, and backed the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran. Though the MEK initially was supportive of the 1979 Islamic revolution, it eventually opposed the clerical regime that came to power. In two 1981 attacks, the MEK killed the Iranian president, premier, chief justice, and 70 other Iranian officials. And with the support of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the MEK launched attacks on Iran beginning in 1987, during the brutal endgame of the Iran-Iraq war, later claiming that they killed 40,000 of their countrymen during these campaigns.

Decades later, Iran is still a rogue state. But some say that it’s time to rethink the MEK. “I say the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” says Raymond Tanter, a former Middle East analyst on Reagan’s National Security Council, now Washington’s leading MEK booster. “They have eyes and ears on the ground. And they can provide us with human intelligence that we just don’t have.”

That presence on the ground, and its clear opposition to Iran, is winning the MEK support in Washington. President Bush recently called the MEK a “dissident group,” a clear hat tip, and several U.S. legislators want the MEK removed from the terrorist list, which would allow it to raise money in the United States. MEK fundraisers have challenged the group’s terrorist status in court, so far without success. The Iran Freedom Support Act, a House bill clearly intended to help the group, was introduced in April by longtime MEK backer Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. It remains tied up in committee. MEK supporters on Capitol Hill are likely waiting on the State Department’s official revocation (or reaffirmation) of the group’s terrorist status, expected to take place in early October.

Retro Radicals
With a curious ideology somehow melding Marxism and Shiite Islamism, the MEK is a relic of a different time—a group of aging student activists who cling to their 1970’s radicalism. Comparable American and European groups like the Weather Underground and the Red Brigades faded away long ago, but the MEK has lived on in isolation. Despite its claims to be “democratic,” the group is actually a strict authoritarian commune, with frequent reports of beatings and torture of members who try to leave. Critics of the MEK don’t hesitate to call it a cult, and even some supporters concede that the group is rather unusual. The group’s leadership is a “gynocracy,” with women making up 30 percent of the fighting force and holding a disproportionately large share of military and political leadership positions. All members are subordinate to the “President-Elect,” Maryam Rajavi and her husband Massoud. Maryam’s face appears on t-shirts, signs, and pamphlets, and her slogans are repeated by followers with an eerie mantra-like insistence.

But the group’s bizarre nature isn’t the problem for gaining American backing. Rather, it’s a more important question: Has the MEK really given up terrorism? The group has foresworn violence, outwardly at least, as it desperately tries to scrub off the terrorist label. The centerpiece of the MEK’s new program is a peaceful “Third Way” to regime change, calling for a highly implausible referendum on a new Iranian government. Now that the group is angling for U.S. patronage, it has dropped the anti-American and overtly Marxist rhetoric from the group’s early days, and instead talks of free markets, liberty, freedom, and democracy. “The law says if they haven't engaged in terrorist activity for two years, and they don't have the means or intent to perform terrorist acts, they get off the list,” argues Tanter, “I say, follow the law.”

For now, the Bush administration seems to be trying to have it both ways. At a 2004 House International Relations subcommittee hearing, John Bolton, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that while the MEK is a terrorist organization, he didn’t think that it “prohibited us from getting information from them.”

During the MEK’s long cooperation with Saddam Hussein, it assisted in the brutal suppression of the Kurds and Shiites, earning the enmity of both groups. So it came as no surprise when Iraq's new Shiite-dominated interim Governing Council issued a decree in 2003 (never enforced, by dint of U.S. inaction) saying that the MEK would be expelled from the country. The group got a temporary reprieve from the Iraqis, but is under enormous pressure from official and unofficial groups, including the Shiite Badr Brigade, to leave Iraq as soon as possible, a large-scale relocation that will require American support and diplomatic muscle.

Meanwhile, the MEK’s transformation into a tool of U.S. intelligence is fast becoming a fait accompli. U.S. forces have disarmed its military wing in Iraq and news reports suggest demoralized fighters are deserting their base at Camp Ashraf. According to Massoud Khodabandeh, a former MEK security officer who left the group in 1996 and recently testified against its leadership on trial on charges of terrorism in France, “more than 300 members have fled…[and] 1,000 disaffected members approached the U.S. army and requested to be separated from the organization.” Both the mujahedin who have sought protection in U.S. custody and the hardline supporters still with the group clearly need something to do—and the Pentagon is holding all the cards.

“I'm not saying I always approve of the tactics that the group used in the past,” cautioned Shirin Nariman, a longtime MEK member and fundraiser who joined the group in the late 1970’s. “The whole world has changed, so of course it requires different strategies. And they don't require an army.” (Though a member of the MEK, Nariman often refers to the group in the third person). Former member Khodabandeh is blunter: “They have this dilemma. On one hand they have [used] violence for 30 years. On the other hand they have to get some support from someone (in America or other places) to survive after Saddam.” He dismissed the “peaceful” rhetoric as tactical posturing by the group, masking its terrorist character.

Friends in Need

When the Iran-Iraq war ended, an MEK commander asked about the future of the group said, “We have always adjusted tactics in our fighting. The form of fighting is secondary.” Predictably, the group is retooling itself again, and according to some sources, moving its operations to a new frontier.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has granted permission for the MEK to operate from the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, which borders Iran. This decison suggests to some that there is a possibility that the CIA may be deploying the MEK in western Afghanistan as well, to the provinces of Herat and Farah, thus doubling the length of Iranian border open to infiltration. As with Pakistan, the MEK is familiar with that terrain, having infiltrated western Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

Asked what the MEK might be doing, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Rick Francona, a former Air Force intelligence specialist with experience in the Middle East, says: “The primary focus will be the collection of intelligence, possibly even setting up infiltration and exfiltration routes and identifying agents in place inside Iran.” Francona explains that MEK teams could work in conjunction with any of these activities: “While U.S. technical intelligence sensors—electronic and visual—are useful, it is always better to have a human source that can penetrate the facility, tell us what is going on inside the buildings, who is doing what, intentions, progress, and so on. A good spy is hard to beat.”

But is MEK intelligence any good? Current and former U.S. officials have told Newsweek magazine that they knew of the major revelations about Iran’s nuclear program before the MEK made them public, and the group has a record of exaggerating intelligence or sometimes simply making things up. U.S. officials have learned to take MEK claims with very large grains of salt. David Kay, the former intelligence official who spent years investigating Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, expressed a balanced view: “They're often wrong, but occasionally they give you something.”

More alarming, however, is Khodabandeh’s warning that the MEK has been heavily infiltrated by Iranian intelligence, and is of limited utility. However, he concedes, “Having said that, I think it is the job of CIA officers to use the available forces on the ground.” Khodabandeh also notes that the CIA might be able to “clean” the organization of Iranian infiltrators, restoring some of its usefulness as a covert ops force. An alternative method, suggests Francona, would involve culling small operating groups of trustworthy individuals from the MEK’s ranks, employing them in isolated “cells” to limit the damage if any one of them is discovered. “There is precedent for this,” he says, although he refuses to elaborate.

Meanwhile, the latest U.S. intelligence assessment released recently now projects that Iran is a decade away from being able to produce a nuclear bomb. But MEK supporters say the assessment is both naïve and out of date, because of the subsequent election of ultra-conservative hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president in June. Tanter warns, “What the elections did was consolidate power under supreme leader Khamenei in such a fashion that there’s now very little need to conciliate the moderates in the Iranian government. I anticipate that Iran will take a tougher line on negotiations on Europe.” Iran’s recent rejection of a seemingly generous European “grand bargain” as “insulting” would appear to confirm Tanter’s prediction.

Despite the political changes on the ground, it is still hard to imagine the MEK playing a large role in any future regime change in Iran. With no more than 3,800 aging members, the group could hardly destabilize the Iranian government itself, but it may prove useful as an intelligence asset. With its allies currently frustrating U.S. efforts to refer the Iran nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council, Washington may be in need of friends and any help may be appreciated. The question is whether the MEK are the kind of friends you can count on.

Erik Sass is a freelance journalist"

Foreign Policy: With Friends Like These Page 2

Foreign Policy: With Friends Like These: "With Friends Like These

By Erik Sass Page 2 of 2




During the MEK’s long cooperation with Saddam Hussein, it assisted in the brutal suppression of the Kurds and Shiites, earning the enmity of both groups. So it came as no surprise when Iraq's new Shiite-dominated interim Governing Council issued a decree in 2003 (never enforced, by dint of U.S. inaction) saying that the MEK would be expelled from the country. The group got a temporary reprieve from the Iraqis, but is under enormous pressure from official and unofficial groups, including the Shiite Badr Brigade, to leave Iraq as soon as possible, a large-scale relocation that will require American support and diplomatic muscle.

Meanwhile, the MEK’s transformation into a tool of U.S. intelligence is fast becoming a fait accompli. U.S. forces have disarmed its military wing in Iraq and news reports suggest demoralized fighters are deserting their base at Camp Ashraf. According to Massoud Khodabandeh, a former MEK security officer who left the group in 1996 and recently testified against its leadership on trial on charges of terrorism in France, “more than 300 members have fled…[and] 1,000 disaffected members approached the U.S. army and requested to be separated from the organization.” Both the mujahedin who have sought protection in U.S. custody and the hardline supporters still with the group clearly need something to do—and the Pentagon is holding all the cards.

“I'm not saying I always approve of the tactics that the group used in the past,” cautioned Shirin Nariman, a longtime MEK member and fundraiser who joined the group in the late 1970’s. “The whole world has changed, so of course it requires different strategies. And they don't require an army.” (Though a member of the MEK, Nariman often refers to the group in the third person). Former member Khodabandeh is blunter: “They have this dilemma. On one hand they have [used] violence for 30 years. On the other hand they have to get some support from someone (in America or other places) to survive after Saddam.” He dismissed the “peaceful” rhetoric as tactical posturing by the group, masking its terrorist character.

Friends in Need

When the Iran-Iraq war ended, an MEK commander asked about the future of the group said, “We have always adjusted tactics in our fighting. The form of fighting is secondary.” Predictably, the group is retooling itself again, and according to some sources, moving its operations to a new frontier.


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has granted permission for the MEK to operate from the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, which borders Iran. This decison suggests to some that there is a possibility that the CIA may be deploying the MEK in western Afghanistan as well, to the provinces of Herat and Farah, thus doubling the length of Iranian border open to infiltration. As with Pakistan, the MEK is familiar with that terrain, having infiltrated western Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

Asked what the MEK might be doing, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Rick Francona, a former Air Force intelligence specialist with experience in the Middle East, says: “The primary focus will be the collection of intelligence, possibly even setting up infiltration and exfiltration routes and identifying agents in place inside Iran.” Francona explains that MEK teams could work in conjunction with any of these activities: “While U.S. technical intelligence sensors—electronic and visual—are useful, it is always better to have a human source that can penetrate the facility, tell us what is going on inside the buildings, who is doing what, intentions, progress, and so on. A good spy is hard to beat.”

But is MEK intelligence any good? Current and former U.S. officials have told Newsweek magazine that they knew of the major revelations about Iran’s nuclear program before the MEK made them public, and the group has a record of exaggerating intelligence or sometimes simply making things up. U.S. officials have learned to take MEK claims with very large grains of salt. David Kay, the former intelligence official who spent years investigating Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, expressed a balanced view: “They're often wrong, but occasionally they give you something.”

More alarming, however, is Khodabandeh’s warning that the MEK has been heavily infiltrated by Iranian intelligence, and is of limited utility. However, he concedes, “Having said that, I think it is the job of CIA officers to use the available forces on the ground.” Khodabandeh also notes that the CIA might be able to “clean” the organization of Iranian infiltrators, restoring some of its usefulness as a covert ops force. An alternative method, suggests Francona, would involve culling small operating groups of trustworthy individuals from the MEK’s ranks, employing them in isolated “cells” to limit the damage if any one of them is discovered. “There is precedent for this,” he says, although he refuses to elaborate.

Meanwhile, the latest U.S. intelligence assessment released recently now projects that Iran is a decade away from being able to produce a nuclear bomb. But MEK supporters say the assessment is both naïve and out of date, because of the subsequent election of ultra-conservative hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president in June. Tanter warns, “What the elections did was consolidate power under supreme leader Khamenei in such a fashion that there’s now very little need to conciliate the moderates in the Iranian government. I anticipate that Iran will take a tougher line on negotiations on Europe.” Iran’s recent rejection of a seemingly generous European “grand bargain” as “insulting” would appear to confirm Tanter’s prediction.

Despite the political changes on the ground, it is still hard to imagine the MEK playing a large role in any future regime change in Iran. With no more than 3,800 aging members, the group could hardly destabilize the Iranian government itself, but it may prove useful as an intelligence asset. With its allies currently frustrating U.S. efforts to refer the Iran nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council, Washington may be in need of friends and any help may be appreciated. The question is whether the MEK are the kind of friends you can count on.

Erik Sass is a freelance journalist. "

Miller Agrees to Testify in CIA Leak Probe - Yahoo! News

Miller Agrees to Testify in CIA Leak Probe - Yahoo! News: "Miller Agrees to Testify in CIA Leak Probe By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - After nearly three months behind bars, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify about the Bush administration's disclosure of a covert CIA officer's identity.

Miller left the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., after reaching an agreement with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She will appear Friday morning before a grand jury investigating the case.

"My source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations," Miller said in a statement.

Her source was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, reported the Times, which supported her contention that her source should be protected.

"As we have throughout this ordeal, we continue to support Judy Miller in the decision she has made," said Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. "We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify."

Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment.

Until this past summer, President Bush said leakers in the Plame probe would be fired. But in July after it was revealed that top aide Karl Rove and Libby had been involved in the leaks, Bush said "if someone committed a crime," he would be fired.

Miller has been in custody since July 6. A federal judge ordered her jailed when she refused to testify before the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's name by White House officials.

The disclosure of Plame's identity by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in July 2003 triggered an inquiry that has caused political damage to the Bush White House and could still result in criminal charges against government officials.

The federal grand jury delving into the matter expires Oct. 28. Miller would have been freed at that time, but prosecutors could have pursued a criminal contempt of court charge against the reporter if she continued to defy Fitzgerald.

Of the reporters swept up in Fitzgerald's investigation, Miller is the only one to go to jail. She was found in civil contempt of court.

Time reporter Matthew Cooper testified to the grand jury after his magazine surrendered his notes and e-mail detailing a conversation with presidential aide Karl Rove.

Last year, Cooper and NBC's Tim Russert answered some of the prosecutor's questions about conversations they had with Libby.

Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus also answered the prosecutor's questions about a conversation with an unidentified administration official. Under the arrangements for his testimony, Pincus did not identify the official to the investigators, who already knew the official's identity. Prosecutors also say they know the identity of Miller's source.

Novak apparently has cooperated with prosecutors, though neither he nor his lawyer has said so.

Novak's column on July 14, 2003, came eight days after Plame's husband said in an opinion piece in the Times that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

Novak wrote that two senior administration officials told him Plame had suggested sending her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the African nation of Niger on behalf of the CIA to look into possible Iraqi purchases of uranium yellowcake.

Wilson's article in the Times had stated it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

The timing of Wilson's article was devastating for the White House, which was struggling to fend off criticism because no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. The president's claims of such weapons in Iraq were the main justification for going to war.

According to an affidavit of Miller's in the investigation, the reporter spoke to one or more confidential sources regarding Wilson's op-ed piece, which was titled, "What I Didn't Find In Africa." She never wrote a story about Wilson or Plame.

Fitzgerald wanted Miller to tell the grand jury about the confidential conversations she had with a particular administration official and the prosecutor demanded that she produce documents relating to those conversations.

Fitzgerald said in July that he thought he had identified Miller's source and that the source had waived confidentiality.

Miller's cooperation could clear the way for Fitzgerald to wind up his investigation. Whether he will seek any indictments or is trying to negotiate guilty pleas with anyone isn't publicly known.

While the expiration of the grand jury on Oct. 28 would seem to be a milestone signifying the end of the investigation, Fitzgerald could ask the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Thomas Hogan, to impanel a new grand jury.

Miller is a veteran national security reporter. In the 1980s, she became the first woman to be named chief of The Times' Cairo bureau in Egypt. For her work on Osama bin Laden in 2001, she won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism as part of a small team of Times reporters.

Starting in 2002, her stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq helped bolster the Bush administration's case for toppling Saddam Hussein. The failure to find the weapons prompted heavy criticism of Miller and the Times as well as of the Bush administration.

The news media is in a less-than-ideal position in the Plame probe.

The reporters' sources — rather than being whistle-blowers exposing wrongdoing and facing retaliation if identified — are government officials whose motives in leaking appear to have been to undermine the credibility of a critic of the Bush administration.

AP reporter Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report"

Jerusalem Post | Larry Franklin Cops a Plea - Rolls over on AIPAC Spy Ring

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Sep. 29, 2005 21:16 | Updated Sep. 29, 2005 22:36
Plea bargain for analyst who gave information to AIPAC
By NATHAN GUTTMAN
Washington


Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, charged with providing officials in the pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC) with classified defense information, has struck a plea bargain with the prosecution and is expected to testify against the former AIPAC employees in the case. Franklin will enter his guilty plea next Wednesday at the US District court in Alexandria, Virginia.

This latest development in the AIPAC case makes it clear that the main target of the federal investigation are now the two former lobby staffers – Steve Rosen, who was the policy director, and Keith Weissman, the senior Iran analyst. Both were fired from AIPAC last April and were indicted in August by a grand jury on charges of conspiring to receive and transfer classified information.

Reaching a plea bargain with Franklin will enable the federal prosecutors to strengthen their case against Rosen and Weissman by calling Franklin to the stand and having him testify that he had informed the AIPAC staffers that the information he was giving them is classified. This could weaken the AIPAC staffers defense, which is based on the claim they were not aware of the fact that the information they got was classified and that their contacts with Franklin should be seen as common practice for lobbyists in the US capital.

The indictment also mentions the fact that the AIPAC officials were in touch with Israeli diplomats and that they have transferred information they got from Franklin to the Israelis.

Edward Adams, spokesperson for the clerk's office at the US District court in Virginia, said that Franklin is expected to enter his plea on Wednesday, but it is not yet known to which charges it will relate.

"The court's records do not indicate what charge or charges Mr. Franklin will plead guilty to. A statement of facts and any plea agreement Mr. Franklin has struck with prosecutors will be filed during his October 5 hearing", said Adams in a statement put out Thursday.

Franklin's lawyer, Plato Cacheris was not available for comment.

An indictment handed down in May against Larry Franklin details his contacts with the AIPAC staffers and with Israeli officials and charges him on five counts regarding the transfer of classified defense information. If convicted, he might have gotten a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Now it is assumed the plea bargain will get Franklin a much lighter sentence.
Franklin is also charged in a separate case of illegally storing classified documents at his home in West Virginia.

US attorney Paul McNulty, who is heading the probe, said in August that AIPAC, as an organization, is not the target of the investigation. He commended the lobby for taking action after learning of the conduct of its staffers and said that Rosen, Weissman and Franklin were motivated by their desire to advance their own foreign policy agenda.

Rosen, according to court filings and to sources close to the case, has been under FBI surveillance for the past five years. He headed AIPAC's executive lobbying branch and was known for his Middle East expertise and for his impressive connections with senior officials in the administration. It is still not known whether Rosen was the initial target of the investigation, but the latest developments suggest that the main goal of the prosecution now is to reach a conviction against Rosen.

The jury trial in the AIPAC case is scheduled to begin on January 3rd. During preliminary discussions in court this month, Rosen's lawyers claimed they are not receiving the access they need to classified documents used by the prosecution."

Forward Newspaper Online: Ex-Aipac Aide To Seek Dismissal of Case

Ex-Aipac Aide To Seek Dismissal of Case
Will Cite Refusal Of Feds To Disclose Prime Evidence
By Ori Nir
September 30, 2005

WASHINGTON — Steve Rosen, the former pro-Israel lobbyist indicted last month for allegedly conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information, intends to ask a federal judge to dismiss his case on the grounds that the government has refused to disclose key evidence, the Forward has learned.

According to sources close to the case, federal prosecutors are refusing to release recordings of phone conversations intercepted by the FBI, in which Rosen — a former top official at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — allegedly referred to classified information that he had obtained. The prosecution contends that sharing this evidence with Rosen would constitute the disclosure of secret information.

Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has argued that since Rosen was the one quoting or referring to the allegedly classified material, he has been exposed to it already, and therefore no damage could be done by letting him review it, sources said. Not permitting him to review the evidence, Lowell argued, would severely impede Rosen's ability to defend himself. Sources with intimate knowledge of the legal proceedings said that Lowell has told the prosecution and Judge T. S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia that failure to disclose such evidence should be regarded as cause for dismissing the case.

A dismissal, or even an order forcing more evidence to be shared, could bolster Jewish communal officials who say that Rosen and the other former Aipac official who has been indicted, Iran specialist Keith Weissman, are the victims of elements in the CIA, FBI and the Justice Department seeking to reduce the influence of the pro-Israel lobby. On the other hand, if the case goes to trial, it could cast an embarrassing spotlight on the ways in which Aipac collects information and wields power in Washington. The indictment charges that Rosen and Weissman passed classified material on to journalists and to diplomats of a foreign country, widely believed to be Israel.

The trial is scheduled to begin on January 3. Rosen and Weissman have pleaded not guilty, as has the Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, who allegedly passed the classified information on to them.

A spokesman for Lowell declined to confirm or deny that he disagrees with the prosecution over the disclosure of classified evidence.

At the August 16 hearing, when Rosen and Weissman appeared before Ellis, the judge expressed concern that attorneys for the two men were seeking too long a period of time to review the evidence relevant to the case. With the new complaint, it appears that some of the most critical evidence has yet to be disclosed to the defendants' lawyers.

Sources close to the case predict that proceedings will be riddled with technical and procedural disagreements, partially because the case is unfolding on uncharted legal ground: This is the first time that any individual is being tried for violating the specific section of the Espionage Act that served as the grounds for most of the indictment articles against Rosen and Weissman.

Aipac initially stood by the two men, but then pushed them out in April. The organization issued a statement saying that their activities do not comport with the organization's standards. The organization had been informed by the Department of Justice that it would not be a target of the investigation if it took several steps, including the firing of Rosen and Weissman.

Despite its decision to dismiss Rosen and Weissman, Aipac continues to pay their legal fees, in accordance with the organization's bylaws, sources close to Aipac confirmed. A spokesman for Aipac had no comment regarding Rosen's and Weissman's legal fees.

Aipac's membership has almost doubled since 2000, to 100,000 from 55,000, and its annual operating budget has more than doubled, to more than $40 million from $17 million. Sources close to the organization said that this fundraising year, which ends this week, may bring in as much as $47 million. Aipac has also established a capital fund and a building fund. By the end of 2007, Aipac for the first time will be housed in its own building, located a few blocks from the Capitol.

As a result, the organization is undergoing major restructuring, including an expansion of its Washington lobbying efforts, the number of issues it addresses and its outreach to Jewish communities across the country, according to three sources familiar with the efforts. Aipac's Jerusalem office is also growing, in both space and staff, sources said.

Among the issues added to its lobbying agenda are homeland security, nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Its venture into homeland security is a first dip into domestic issues for the organization, which has made foreign policy its strength.

One of the hallmarks of the restructuring is that the congressional and executive-branch lobbying departments, run separately for years, will be rolled into one outfit. It will be headed jointly by Brad Gordon, who currently runs congressional lobbying, and Marvin Feuer, a senior defense analyst. In the wake of the FBI investigation, some critics have said that Rosen relied too heavily on the executive branch and allegedly became embroiled in its secrets. Feuer has assumed Rosen's responsibilities.

The changes have been in the works since 2003, all the sources said, and predate the FBI raid last year that roiled the organization. Much of the organization's growth has to do with renewed activist interest in Israel since the breakdown of the peace process in 2000 and the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, according to insiders. The momentum accelerated with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Aipac has expanded its top management team, hired a number of new regional directors and added lobbyists. No one in the organization would give specific numbers.


With reporting by JTA.