I’veÂ beenÂ covering theÂ AIPAC spy case sinceÂ CBS broke the story ofÂ US secrets stolen by top officials of Israel’s number oneÂ Washington lobbyist, way back in late summer of 2004.Â Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, AIPAC honcho Steven Rosen, and the Lobby‘s number one Iran specialist, Keith Weissman, were indicted on August 4, 2005. Franklin pleaded guilty, and, in a deal with the government, promised to testify at the trial of his co-conspirators, Rosen and Weissman, in exchange for leniency: depending on his performance at the upcoming trial, he may get his 12-year sentence reduced considerably.
That is, if the trial ever takes place. I’ve been on this case since day one, but even I’ve lost count of how many times the trial has been delayed, for one made-up-sounding reason or another. Rosen and Weissman are certainly getting the best defense lawyers: their legal costs, already running into the millions before the trial has even begun, must have set some kind of record.Â Rosen and Weissman areÂ the Lobby’s SaccoÂ and Vanzetti, and they are certainly getting excellent legal representation. As the Jewish TelegraphicÂ Agency reports:
“An April 29 trial date was set in the classified information case against two former AIPAC staffers. Judge T.S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., told prosecutors and defense lawyers that the date he set Thursday was final, sources said. Ellis’ office confirmed the date, at least the fifth such date since Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its Iran analyst, were indicted in August 2005.”
I see I’m not the only one to have lost count of theÂ postponements. The defense deftly delayed on every imaginable ground, and was indulged by a noticeably sympathetic judge, who forced the government to produce top secret information — the very information Israel’s AIPAC spy nest hadÂ gleaned from sympathizers inside our government. Furthermore, he has granted the defense demand to subpoenaÂ top government officials, includingÂ CondoleezzaÂ Rice.Â InÂ addition to this new — and supposedly “final” — trial date, theÂ JTAÂ reports an interesting development:Â
“Separately, the prosecution announced three expert witnesses it would call to show that the classified information allegedly handled by Rosen and Weissman damaged the national interest: Maj. Gen. Paul Dettmer, the Pentagon’s assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; William McNair, a CIA official; and Dale Watson, the FBI’s former executive assistant director for counterterrorism and counterintelligence, who headed the agency’s investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”
“The defense has not announced its experts.”
It will no doubt be difficult to find anyone in the military or intelligence communities who would tesitfy that the treason of Franklin, Weissman, and Rosen served the national interest, rather than damaged it, but there’s a whole platoon of neoconservative writers and publicists who have been rallying to the defense, and claiming that the prosecution is motivated by “anti-Semites” within the Justice Department, includingÂ Joel Mowbray, Commentary editor Gabriel Schoenfeld, and the inimitably laconic Charles Johnson, who disdained the whole matter as a mere “kerfluffle.” Let them take the stand, raise their right hands, and swear that it’s good for America that the Israelis are stealing our secrets with one hand, even as they take in billions per year from the US Treasury with the other.
What’s so important about the AIPAC spy case? After all, nations spy on each other all the time, so what’s the big deal with this particular incident?
The story of two top AIPAC employees who acted as couriers, funneling US intelligence gleaned from Franklin to their Israeli handlers, dramatizes the thesis of professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, in The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, their monumental study of how groups like AIPAC distort the policy-making process. Franklin, in his guilty plea, admitted to the crime, but maintained his ideological innocence to the end, claiming that he had only wanted to help Israel and thought its concerns were not being sufficiently heeded by US government officials.
The Lobby, in spite of its zeal on behalf of Israel, has always maintained that Israeli and American interests are perfectly congruent. The exposure of key figures in their top leadership as spies for Israel is a case of zeal gone too far — and a perfect refutation of the perfect congruence argument.