Ex-AIPAC staffers say Condi leaked them classified info
by ron kampeas
Jewish Telgraph Agency
alexandria, va. | Two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee say Condoleezza Rice was their informant on
sensitive national security matters.
The claim, laid out in a courtroom Friday, April 21, intensified the
drama surrounding a trial that could further roil a Washington
political establishment already consumed by cases involving "official"
and "unofficial" leaks.
The trial date, originally scheduled to begin April 25, has now been
set for Aug. 7, even as the judge in the case continues to suggest the
case might not go to trial at all.
In last week's pretrial hearing, lawyers for Steve Rosen, AIPAC's
former foreign policy director, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran
analyst, persuaded federal Judge T.S. Ellis III to allow a subpoena
for the secretary of state and three other current and former Middle
East policy officials.
Rosen and Weissman were indicted last August on charges that they
relayed classified information to fellow AIPAC staffers, journalists
and diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
The judge continued to express grave doubts about the government's
case, sympathizing with defense claims that it could impinge on free
speech rights, and that it lacked precedent.
When Kevin DiGregory, the lead prosecutor, pointed out that the First
Amendment had never been cited in a similar case, Ellis chided him,
saying: "Well, no case has been like this one."
Setting out a pretrial schedule, Ellis pointedly would not count out a
dismissal before the start of the trial and several times qualified
prospective dates, saying "if there is going to be a trial."
Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Rice had not merely been Rosen's
interlocutor, but had leaked information identical to and at times
more sensitive than examples cited in the indictment.
In addition, Lowell said, the information Rice provided was more
"volatile" than the information described in the indictment. Lowell
would not elaborate on what information he was referring to.
Lowell asked for an additional meeting with the judge - with no
prosecutors present - to further describe the testimony he anticipated
from Rice and others. Ellis said he looked forward to "a lot of juicy
Ellis had to rule on the request because the subpoenas fell under
special rules of the district court in Alexandria, Va., that require
subpoenas for Cabinet members, ambassadors and generals to be approved
by the presiding judge.
Lowell said that another six subpoenas had already been sent to
Rice's testimony is not yet guaranteed. The State Department must
clear subpoenas to its staff, and witnesses have a right to ask
subpoenas to be squashed. But Lowell made it clear he would not let
the government off the hook, likening this case to the recent
controversy over leaks on the Iraq war President Bush has defended as
"authorized" and those he has attacked as illegal.
Also at the hearing, called on a few days' notice, the judge sided
with the defense's claim that the case is unprecedented.
Government lawyers have striven to show that prosecution under a 1917
statute that criminalizes the receipt of classified information is not
unprecedented. Lowell said the government had failed to show true
precedent and had instead "cut and pasted" elements of four or five
unrelated cases to establish precedent.
Ellis agreed, calling Lowell's arguments "substantial."
It was not all good news for the defense. Lowell wanted Ellis to order
depositions from three Israeli diplomats who allegedly received
information from Rosen and Weissman. The defense has been unable to
persuade the diplomats to voluntarily comply.
Ellis refused, saying he did not see the point because his orders
carried no weight in Israel, where the diplomats now reside.
Lowell acknowledged as much, but apparently hoped a formal order from
the judge would embarrass the Israelis into volunteering; ever since
the Jonathan Pollard spy case in the late 1980s, Israeli officials
want to be seen as cooperative with American legal cases.
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