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Jewish Journal

Government to drop AIPAC spy case

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 1, 2009 | 1:04 pm

Prosecutors today asked a federal judge to drop the charges against two former top AIPAC staffers accused of conspiring to obtain, and then disclosing, classified information. JTA reports:

In a statement Friday, the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia said restrictions on the government’s case imposed by Judge T.S. Ellis III made conviction unlikely.

“Given the diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial under the additional intent requirements imposed by the court and the inevitable disclosure of classified information that would occur at any trial in this matter, we have asked the court to dismiss the indictment,” Dana Boente said.

The motion all but guarantees a dismissal.

“Intent requirements” refers to an earlier Ellis ruling that the government must prove that Keith Weissman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s former Iran analyst, and Steve Rosen, its former foreign policy chief, intended not only to assist Israel but to harm the United States.

Weissman and Rosen were charged under a rarely used section of the 1917 Espionage Act that makes it a crime for civilians to receive and distribute closely held defense information. Both men were later dismissed by AIPAC, with the organization claiming the two had violated its rules; Rosen has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against AIPAC.

Reached by phone, Rosen told JTA he was “ecstatic” and was “still absorbing a life-changing moment.” He said he had been on the phone Friday morning nonstop with family and friends.

“There was a great injustice here, but thank God we live in a country where the courts can correct this kind of injustice,” he said.

I wonder what this means for Rep. Jane Harman.

Jeff Stein, the CQ columnist who broke the Harman story, just wrote that “the Justice Department’s decision to drop espionage charges against two pro-Israel lobbyists will certainlypour jet fuel on conspiracy theories burning up the blogosphere.” And I’m sure he’s right. Jews and conspiracy theories have a storied, albeit painful, history.

More to come on this. One of my editors is promising that Michael Berenbaum will have “analysis and inside info” at the Bloggish staff and contributor blog this afternoon.

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