AIPAC Case Collapses
The Obama Justice Department has asked a judge to dismiss charges against two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists accused of receiving classified information from the Bush Pentagon and passing it on to journalists and Israeli government officials. Good.
Put aside whatever you may feel about AIPAC. The case amounted to the criminalization of extremely routine practices in Washington: acquiring and distributing information that’s overclassified.
Technically, I published classified information last Monday when I reported that there was an undisclosed classified Office of Legal Counsel memorandum on torture from 2007. There’s a widespread recognition that way too much information is needlessly classified. Indeed, “Ninety-five percent of what we do shouldn’t be classified at all, or it should be a much lower level of classification,” Joan Dempsey, a former senior CIA and Pentagon official, recently estimated, according to Secrecy News. Neither Steve Rosen nor Keith Weissman, the AIPAC lobbyists in question, were government employees. Even if we’re to take the Justice Department’s former line that the leak itself was felonious, they were never accused of being the sources of it, since they couldn’t have been. (That was a guy named Larry Franklin.)
During the Chas Freeman affair, when Steve Rosen was leading the charge against Freeman’s appointment to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council for alleged hostility to Israel, alleged disinterest in human rights, and insinuated nefarious loyalties to China and Saudi Arabia, I remarked that Rosen shouldn’t have gone after another pro-Israel lobbyist with whom he disagreed over Freeman while being wrapped up in the case. I shouldn’t have said that Rosen was under indictment for spying for Israel, since that was a misstatement of the case. The point that I should have made is that someone who was railroaded in this case, with its intimations of dual loyalty, should be circumspect about flinging such charges against other people. Maybe we can all take a deep breath here — doubtful, but maybe — and reflect that it’s good for everyone who desires openness in government that the flimsy charges against Weissman and Rosen are on their way out, regardless of the politics of the accused.