Comment: AIPAC agents accused of spying may walk scot-free
April 23, 2009 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The controversy over Democratic Representative Jane Harman’s alleged telephone deal with a suspected agent of Israel is still raging. One of its unfortunate side effects has been to shift media attention away from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) involvement in the Lawrence Franklin spy case, and focus instead on Washington micro-politicking. But what about the two former AIPAC lobbyists who are technically at the center of the Harman imbroglio?
According to the original allegations, Harman agreed on the telephone to act on behalf of a suspected agent of Israel in pressuring US Justice Department officials to show leniency toward two former AIPAC lobbyists, who were arrested in 2005 for receiving classified information by convicted Israeli spy Lawrence Franklin. Unbeknownst to her, however, her telephone conversation was recorded by National Security Agency (NSA) agents who were investigating the unnamed Israeli agent.
The two lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are supposedly awaiting the start of their trial, which has been set for June 2. But new information emerged yesterday that the Department of Justice may actually abandon the original spy charges against the two. The Washington Post cited “law enforcement sources and lawyers close to the case”, who said that US government officials are close to withdrawing all espionage indictments against the two, in connection with the Lawrence Franklin case.
Although the Justice Department has not confirmed these latest revelations, security observers may be excused for wondering what exactly is going on with the US response to repeated instances of Israeli spying on US soil. Last December, during an almost jovial gathering at a US Federal Court in Manhattan, US Army engineer Ben-Ami Kadish pleaded guilty to charges of passing classified US military documents to Israel. Kadish, who is now retired, was reportedly extremely pleasant during the hearing and, after declaring that he spied “for the benefit of Israel”, made sure to wish everyone present “a happy New Year”. His lawyer was quick to thank the US government for agreeing “not to oppose or object to a non-jail sentence” request, and expressed a collective wish that “Mr. Kadish can go on and spend the golden years of his life with his lovely wife, Doris”.
Then, on March 4, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton walked into Israeli Prime Minister-Designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s office during an official visit to Israel, to discover that among Netanyahu’s advisors present in the room was Uzi Arad. Arad, a 25-year veteran of the Mossad, is currently barred from entering the US for his involvement as a co-conspirator in the Lawrence Franklin spy case. Despite his role in that diplomatic faux pas, Arad has continued his close relationship with Netanyahu, who has tasked him with heading Israel’s National Security Council. As soon as Clinton and her advisers realized Arar was standing next to Netanyahu in the room, they tried to discreetly avoid diplomatic complications by requesting that “only three participants from each side stay in the meeting”. It was an indirect way of requesting that Arar leave the room. But the US delegation was stunned when Israel’s Prime Minister-Designate kept the former Mossad agent present, choosing instead to kick out Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor. Remarkably, Clinton’s delegation chose to remain in the room and did not say a word about Netanyahu’s diplomatic slap-in-the-face, hoping that the incident would not make headlines. Ambassador Meridor, however, was not so sensitive about the affair. He was so put off that he announced his resignation soon afterwards.
Now three more individuals connected with the Lawrence Franklin spy case are reportedly being treated with kid gloves by the Department of Justice. In 2005, Representative Harman, a longtime member of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who has access to highly classified security information, was allegedly involved in underhanded negotiations with a suspected Israeli-handled agent who was investigated by the NSA. Amazingly, then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales actually blocked a planned FBI inquiry into Harman’s secret activities. And it is now very likely that Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the former AIPAC lobbyists accused of handing restricted US government information to agents of Israel’s embassy in Washington, may actually walk scot-free from the case.
If this happens, it may be time for a serious debate on the principles informing US counterintelligence dogma. Could it be that we are witnessing the emergence of two separate security doctrines in Washington –one for Israel and one for the rest of the world? If so, someone in Washington should have the elementary decency to step forward and tell the American electorate the truth.