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Israel News Faxx
May 31, 2005, Vol. 13, No. 100

AIPAC Seeks to Distance Itself from Possible Spy Trial


With criminal indictments likely in the coming weeks, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) officials are working diligently to distance the prominent pro-Israel lobby from center stage.

Criminal indictments are expected to be filed against former AIPAC employees, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, for allegedly handing classified Pentagon documents to an Israeli Embassy official. AIPAC is engaged in damage control efforts; carefully monitoring events and tactfully releasing carefully worded media statements as the news continues to unfold in the pages of America's most prominent newspapers.

U.S. to Indict Two Senior AIPAC Officials Under Espionage Act

By Ha'aretz

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to file indictments against two former senior staffers at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) - Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman - and, according to sources familiar with the affair, the charges will be subsumed under the Espionage Act.

A Virginia grand jury is now examining the evidence in the case, which involved receipt of classified defense information from Larry Franklin, a Pentagon official, and its transfer to the representative of a foreign country, Naor Gilon, of the Israeli embassy in Washington. Sources involved in the case confirmed that the Espionage Act is on the agenda. But there is also the possibility that the Justice Department is raising the intention to use that law with the purpose of reaching a plea bargain concerning a lesser offense, albeit one that is still covered by anti-espionage legislation in the U.S.

Presumably, if indeed such an indictment is filed against two former top-level AIPAC staff members, then Gilon's name will come up, even though he is not a suspect. Israeli officials say he was never questioned in the affair. Gilon heads the political department at the embassy. According to the sources, the grand jury will submit indictments in the coming weeks against Rosen, the former head of foreign policy for the lobbying organization, and against Weissman, who was responsible for the Iranian brief in AIPAC. The grand jury is expected to hand down its indictment against Franklin this week. He is suspected of handing over the classified information. That indictment is expected to be similar to the criminal complaint already filed by the FBI.

The classified material is said to involve information about Iranian intentions to harm American soldiers in Iraq, and it was supposedly given to the two former AIPAC staffers during lunch in Virginia on June 26, 2003.But suspicions against Rosen and Weissman focus on a meeting a year later, on July 12, 2004. Franklin was cooperating by then with the FBI, which had threatened him with an indictment after tracking his earlier meetings with the AIPAC men, discovering the alleged hand-over of secret information. He agreed to take part in a sting operation in which he would give the two information and the investigators would then follow them.

Franklin called Weissman and asked for a meeting to discuss an important subject. At the meeting, in a mall near the Pentagon, Franklin told Weissman that Iranian agents were trying to capture Israeli civilians working in the Kurdish area in northern Iraq. Around the same time there had been conflicting reports in Washington about an Israeli presence in Kurdish Iraq. Journalist Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker had written that Israelis were operating there, but Israel - and the Americans -denied it.

At the meeting, Franklin told Weissman that the information was classified. This is significant in terms of the investigation, since it prevents the AIPAC men from claiming in their defense that they did not know they were dealing with state secrets. Weissman left the meeting and went straight to Rosen's AIPAC office at Capitol Hill. He said it was a matter of life or death, and that Israeli lives were in immediate danger. The two made three phone calls: to an administration official, to Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, and to Gilon, at the embassy. Rosen told Gilon about the information and the Israeli official promised he would look into it. All of those calls were wiretapped by the FBI and are part of the case against Rosen and Weissman.

Plato Cacheris, Franklin's lawyer, confirmed to The New York Sun this weekend that his client indeed took part in the sting operation and said that the investigators appealed to Franklin's sense of patriotism to win him over. The fact that Rosen and Weissman, as American citizens, handed information to an official representative of a foreign power while knowing it was classified is incriminating under the 1917 Espionage Act, which defines as a crime receipt of classified information for the purpose of helping any foreign entity.

The estimated 500 cases involving prosecution of this crime over the last 90 years have always focused on the accused party initiating receipt of the information and on the damage done to the U.S. as a result. In this case, Franklin initiated the transferal of information - and there is no clear-cut evidence regarding the damage done to the U.S.

Rosen, who was under FBI surveillance for at least four years, is now planning his defense with the help of high-profile attorney Abby Lowell. He does not want a plea bargain and prefers to fight it out in court, so he can prove his innocence and go back to work for the lobby. A decisive factor regarding the future of the case will be the extent of the cooperation between Franklin and the investigators. If Franklin depicts his relationship with Weissman and Rosen as close, and one in which he was asked to provide information, it will help the prosecution. Rosen and Weissman claim that the connection with him was minimal and mostly involved trading professional assessments. (Franklin met with Rosen three times, and more often with Weissman.)

But Franklin is not believed right now to be cooperating fully and he faces two charges: one for handing over the information in 2003, and the other for the illegal possession of 83 classified documents at his home in West Virginia. The maximum punishment for each of the charges is 10 years in prison. If he cooperates with the investigation, the punishment could be significantly reduced.

AIPAC will presumably be discussed in the actual trials. But right now, at least, it does not appear the organization itself will be charged. AIPAC leaders have taken a series of steps to cut themselves off from the two former officials suspected in the case. Sources close to the case say the prosecution posed four conditions to AIPAC, which would guarantee that it would not be involved in the indictments: a change of working methods to ensure that such incidents don't happen again; the firing of the two officials and public disassociation from them; no offers of high severance or anything else to make it appear the two quit of their own volition; and no financing of their legal defense.

AIPAC has abided by the first three conditions - and the severance pay offered the two was considered very low, considering the many years they worked for the lobby. But it is said to be helping with their legal fees, indirectly, through its own law firm. AIPAC's decision to cooperate with the investigators' demands and to fire the two officials was made after it became evident that the FBI had tape recordings showing that Franklin explicitly said that the material was secret. AIPAC's assessment was that it would be difficult for the organization to continue working on Capitol Hill, and with the administration, while two of its senior officials are facing such charges.

Although the inquiry is not focused on AIPAC, it is possible the organization will be dragged into the affair when the trial begins. If the two-fired staffers are put in the dock, they will try to prove that they only did what was routine and conventional work for their organization.

Abbas: Without Progress, We Will Return to Armed Resistance


Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has threatened, in an English language interview program, to renew terrorism if the PLO's demands are not met. Abbas' interview on ABC's This Week program focused on his call for the Hamas terror group to renounce violence, going so far as to say the era of suicide bombings is "over". The PLO chairman's language, however, highlighted the fact that he sees such a move as desirable on a tactical level at the present time and not reflective of a rejection of terrorism as a negotiating tool.

"The climate right now is ready for political negotiations," Abbas said through an interpreter. "Hamas should reach that conclusion, that now the way is the political way and not any other way." The official PA website, wrote, "[Abbas] warned that if progress toward a peace agreement was not achieved in meetings with Sharon next month, 'despair and loss of hope will come back and a return to the old ideas' of armed resistance."

Despite the period of recent "calm," terror attacks are thwarted almost daily and rockets and mortar shells continue to be fired at Jewish communities on both sides of the Green Line. Abbas critics have warned that he has never fundamentally abandoned terror - only saying that at the present point in time he thinks he can get more by talking than by shooting.

And in a related story, security forces have arrested four Arabs from the Negev Bedouin city of Lakiyah, north of Be'er Sheva, who have been charged with planning to stage a terrorist attack on a passenger train. The investigation against the gang began in April, and a gag order on the arrest was lifted today. The terrorist leader was 26-year-old Talal Jinayim, who also planned to take weapons from soldiers and use them to kill IDF troops, officials said. Three other residents of Lakiyah and Hura, a Bedouin town between Arad and Be'er Sheva, also were arrested.

Hope Springs Eternal: Are there Moderate Muslims?

By Ed Ziegler (Commentary)

For at least two years everyone has seen newspaper articles coming from the Arab world. Stories about suicide bombings drive by shootings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings. You might begin to wonder if "these people" have a single mindset to kill?

There are many factions in the Middle East, each having its own agenda. There are always those who are seeking personal gain. Then there are the fanatics and zealots, religious leaders who want a strict interpretation of the Quran to govern their countries. From these different groups come the terrorists with whatever names they call themselves.

The ones we usually hear about most are the extremists, such as Al Qaeda, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood. These terrorists and some of the Muslin clerics recruit individuals to become fighters and suicide bombers. As an added incentive the families of suicide bombers are promised huge sums of money. From $10,000 up. Of course, taking money to allow one's child to become a suicide bomber is beyond the imagination of any American.

To differentiate a moderate from a non-moderate Muslim group is difficult. Both type of groups use many similar words and claims. It usually requires monitoring for an extended period of time. For example there is the self-claimed Moderate Civil Rights Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has garnered sizeable donations, invitations to the White House and respectful media citations.

In reality, CAIR appears something quite different. One indication came in October 1998, when the group demanded removal of a Los Angeles billboard describing Osama bin Laden as "the sworn enemy," finding this depiction "offensive to Muslims." Only in December 2001 was CAIR finally embarrassed into retracting their denial of bin Alden's involvement with the Sept. 11 massacre. CAIR consistently defends other militant Islamic terrorists. They claimed the conviction of the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing "a travesty of justice." The conviction of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh who planned to blow up New York City landmarks, was a "hate crime decision" according to CAIR.

On Dec. 13, 2004, another organization of American Muslims claiming to be moderate was formed, the American Muslim Group for Policy Planning. Unfortunately, in its initial form, the AMGPP does not at all appear to be moderate. Rather, it resembles the Progressive Muslim Union having, according to Daniel Pipes, some of the same questionable Islamists names such as Salam Al-Maravate, Sarah Eltantawi and Hussein.

Never the less, do not despair. There is always hope and there seems to be a new wave of reasonable Muslims, limited as it is. These moderate Muslims are starting to stand up and speak out against terrorism. The moderates are to be commended for they have been rightfully fearful of vengeful terrorist retaliation.

On April 25, 2004 the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) Phoenix, AZ organized "a rally against terror." An Arizona physician, Zhudi Jasser, heads this organization that looks like and feels like it is moderate. Zhudi's goal was to give Muslim moderates "an opportunity to speak out publicly." Zhudi states, "The killing of an innocent person out of revenge, out of hate or out of retribution and suicide is against the absolute laws of Islam. People can justify their actions all day long, but we as Muslims say clearly their actions are against everything we believe."

This writer has been in contact with Zhudi and has been following his articles. Since this rally the AIFD and Zuhdi have denounced terrorist groups by name. Terrorists such as Hizbullah and Hamas. On Friday, March 11, 2005 a remarkable thing happened in Madrid, Spain. A large number of clerics from the Islamic Conference of Spain issued a very tough fatwa (religious opinion), which condemned Osama bin Laden as a "kafir" (an infidel) and for violating the teachings of Islam.

For several decades Syria, has virtually controlled Lebanon with a sizable contingent of troops, within Lebanon. To the surprise of many, almost one-third pf the Lebanese people demonstrated against Syrian oppression. Their courage is to be commended, opposing Syria and Hizbullah. The same Lebanese people are making an historic statement, which should be clear to all. Now that the Syrian bullies are gone, they do not want to put up with the theocratic oppression of Hizbullah and their ideology.

Time will tell if the Moderate Muslim wave will be strong enough to quell the fanatics. Fanatics who not only want control of their countries, but of the world as well. With the history of anti-Semitism throughout the centuries the Jewish people can look forward with hope and considerable caution. We must remember "Never Again "

(This commentary is the viewpoint of Ed Ziegler [], a board member of the New Jewish Congregation in The Villages, FL, and president of the NJC's Brotherhood. His opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion or viewpoint of Israel News Faxx, its editorial staff or management.)

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