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Rosen/Weissman case may go away, but the issue of influence won’t

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A couple thoughts on today's news, the Justice Department's move to drop its case against two former Israel lobbyists on espionage-related charges.

–It's common in the press to argue that the indicted lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, then of AIPAC, were only doing what policy pros do in Washington all the time: sharing information they've learned from government sources with others, including members of the press. And Weissman and Rosen did speak to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler. But they also passed the information on to Israeli officials and did all this in a secretive manner.

That's what's always been disturbing about the case: the clear understanding that these were government secrets and the ready sharing with a foreign government. Grant Smith has established that Isaiah Kenen, founder of AIPAC, was previously a registered foreign agent for Israel and that the Justice Department sought for a time to force the new lobby to so register itself. Justice folded its hand, then and now.

–When does this behavior cross the line? The central issue here, as Justin Raimondo has long pointed out, is the confusion of American and Israeli interests, especially with respect to Iran; and some of the secrets that Weissman and Rosen got a hold of dealt with Iran. This is not a parlor game. This confusion helped create the Iraq war, and it may produce a calamitous strike on Iran in months to come. How do two overly-entwined countries separate their interests? In part through prosecutions under the Espionage Act. That's why I wish the case had gone forward, to help expose these issues for the public.

–Here's something I noticed yesterday while reading up on the case (and Scott Horton and Raimondo are way ahead of me on this one). In the four-year old federal indictment of Rosen and Weissman, it's alleged that in February 2003, Rosen had a conversation with his source, Larry Franklin, a reserve Air Force colonel serving on the Iran desk in the Pentagon, in which the two talked about the National Security Council. Rosen advised Franklin that if he got a job on the NSC he would be "by the elbow of the president."

Franklin then asked Rosen to "put in a good word" for him, and Rosen assured Franklin, "I'll do what I can."

This is frighteningly similar to the conversation that Congresswoman Jane Harman allegedly has with a "suspected Israeli agent" a couple years later. She aspires to keep her status as ranking member on House Intelligence; and she asks the "agent" to work on then-minority-leader Nancy Pelosi for her. The agent will do so by using Haim Saban, the California moneybags for the Democratic Party.

So in both instances, you have powerful hawkish gov't officials turning to outsiders connected to the Israel lobby for help in their advancement. In both instances, the officials believe that the Israel lobby can affect their careers. This is why I can't shut up about the lobby. It's a huge force in our politics, and its influence is regularly denied. The Justice Department also wanted to pursue a case against Harman. Somehow it abandoned that one, too.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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