Buried in an otherwise routine Jay Solomon WSJ article – Trial Unnerves Some U. S. Jewish Leaders – is this interesting tidbit about that trial in which two former representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are charge with alleged violations of the Espionage Act: Several members of Congress have expressed concern about the case since it broke in 2004, fearing that the Justice Department may be targeting pro-Israel lobbying groups, such as AIPAC. These officials say they’re eager to see the legal process run its course, but are concerned about the lack of transparency in the case.
Transparency problems are only part of the problem. A lot of people, including the judge, are confused by the government’s case against the two former lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Wasserman. According to the WaPo:
The filing was ordered by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who wanted the government to deal with constitutional issues raised by the defense in arguments on March 24 to dismiss the charges.
Ellis said that although the espionage statute had been around for almost 90 years, there were few precedents he could follow and that Rosen and Weissman were the first non-government employees to be indicted for receiving and transmitting national defense information orally.
The case has drawn attention from First Amendment lawyers because the judge, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys have all noted that the two lobbyists, in receiving and disseminating classified information, are doing what journalists, academics and experts at think tanks do every day.
Meanwhile, the defense has subpoenaed Condoleeza Rice and Stephen Hadley. This could get ineresting. Michael Isikoff disclosed in March some parts of what the classified information in this case entailed. His report is short on details, however, but states:
The indictment does not specify the subjects of discussion, but a source familiar with the meeting‚Äîwho asked not to be identified because of legal sensitivities‚Äî says they included the circumstances surrounding the recent seizure by the Israeli government of the Karine A‚Äîa boat loaded with Iranian-made rockets, anti-tank grenades and C-4 explosives that Israeli officials charged was destined for the Palestinian Authority headed by Yasir Arafat. Press reports at the time indicated that the U.S. government had assisted the Israeli government in tracking the arms-laden trip and that there was intelligence indicating that the shipment may have originated in Iran. The shipment touched off an intense debate within the Bush administration about whether to sever relations with Arafat after White House officials became convinced that the Palestinian leader was lying about his knowledge of the shipment.