U.S. Justice Department May Drop Spy Case Against AIPAC Lobbyists

by James M. Wall                                                       hillary-bibi-cropped    

Pro-Israeli Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Ca) may not be in so much trouble after all.  The U.S. Justice Department may drop the spy case against former AIPAC Lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.   

Harman might have figured in the case, had it gone to trial, as scheduled on June 2,  The case, however, has been postponed repeatedly. It could open on June 2, but all signs point to Justice dropping it. This is good news for Harman, who was caught in an FBI wire tap of her conversation with an Israeli “agent”.  

On the wire tap, Harman is reported to have promised the agent she would “wade into” the case on behalf of Rosen and Weissman.

Three days after her comments were revealed by Congressional Quarterly (April 19),  the Washington Post (April 22) brought her the welcome news:

The U.S. government may abandon espionage-law charges against two former lobbyists for a pro-Israel advocacy group, officials said yesterday, as a prominent House lawmaker [Harman] denied new allegations that she offered to use her influence in their behalf.

The Post wrote that Congresswoman Harman expressed outrage at what she described as an “abuse of power” by the government, which had caught her in a wire tap in 2006 while the FBI was operating under a FISA (federally approved) operation to wire tap the agent who was on the phone with Harman. 

Harman’s involvement in the spy case had been revealed in 2006, but the actual transcript of her conversation had not surfaced until last week.

On the wire tap Harman promised to use her influence to persuade the government to be more lenient with the two former lobbyists, both of whom were fired by AIPAC after the lobby group was told of recordings and video in which the lobbyists were seen and heard discussing classified information with Israeli officials and Pentagon Iran specialist Lawrence Franklin.

Franklin is the neoconservative who worked for fellow neocon and Bush appointee Doug Feith in the Pentagon, one of many neoconservatives with considerable influence in the Bush administration. Franklin pled guilty in 2005 to “charges related to unauthorized disclosure of national-security information to people not authorized to receive it”, i.e. Israeli officials. 

In return for her assistance on the pending case against Rosen and Weissman, Harman understood that the agent would approach Haim Saban, a wealthy pro-Israel fund raiser, and ask him to put pressure on the (future) House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to grant Harman a waiver to serve on a term-limited House Intelligence Committee.

Had Pelosi agreed, Harman, as the ranking committee Democrat, would have become chair of the committee.  The exchange heard on the wire tap could be read as a double “pay for play”. If Pelosi wants her campaign funding to continue, she will want to grant Harman her extended time on the Intel Committee. Harman, a Blue Dog Democratic leader, would nudge the Bush Justice Department to go easy on the AIPACC lobbyists. 

Adopting the evasive and polite media language the MSM employs when dealing in anything to do with Israel, the Washington Post story politely reminds the reader of the obvious: Pelosi and her party are dependent on Zionist funding sources:

Harman has repeatedly described herself as a friend of AIPAC, and the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics says that she has received $347,688 in campaign contributions since 1989 from groups that take a pro-Israel stance. She is slated to appear on a panel to discuss “an insider’s look at the Middle East” at AIPAC’s May 3 policy conference.

A Pelosi aide told the Post that the Speaker did not give Harman the chairmanship “for ideological reasons.” One of those reasons: Harman’s decision not to oppose the war in Iraq. Pelosi denied that any pro-Israel donors had threatened to withhold donations.

She added, “”Everybody knows that I don’t respond to threats so it wouldn’t be useful to use them, but it isn’t true, no.”

The trial of Rosen and Weissman has been delayed for more than two years. The Post, helpfully (for the defense) reported that the government’s 2005 case against the two former lobbyists “was brought under a World War I-era espionage law”, using the defense’s possible argument that the law is out of date. 

The Post reports that 

The Justice Department decided not to proceed with a criminal case against Harman [in 2006] or to notify congressional leaders of the preliminary investigation because the evidence was at best murky and such cases are hard to prove, one former government official said yesterday.

Now, a new Justice Department is revisiting the case, possibly prompted by recent court rulings that “could make it harder for the government to win such convictions”. The sources for that speculation? Some law enforcement sources, and more importantly, “lawyers close to the case”.

The court decisions that have caused the government to consider dropping the case included

an appeals court ruling that allowed the defense to use classified information at trial. A lower-court judge also said prosecutors must show that the two men knew that the information they allegedly disclosed would harm the United States or aid a foreign government and that they knew what they were doing was illegal.

In lay terms this suggests two things: the desire to avoid letting classified information be revealed in a trial, and the belief that since Israel is a friendly country it would be difficult to prove that the information would prove to be harmful to the U.S. That is, at best, a shaky premise, but Justice may be looking for any premise in a storm at this point. 

What lies ahead for the diplomats of the U.S. and Israel?  Consider what happened to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a recent trip she made to Jerusalem.  

The Secretary went to a meeting with the newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Laura Rozen, who writes The Cable blog for the website, The New ForeignPolicy.com, learned from her sources that, well, let Rozen tell it:

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Netanyahu at the King David Hotel earlier this month, such was the concern that a certain former Mossad analyst who now serves as Netanyahu’s security advisor may pose a counterintelligence problem that, after conferring with an aide, Clinton suggested to Netanyahu that they reduce the number of people in the room.       uzi-cropped

The reason for Clinton’s unease was an Israeli official named Uzi Arad, (pictured here) who has been unable to secure a visa to visit the U.S. for the past two years. Arad says he assumes the reason is his alleged connection to the Franklin indictment.

Arad was not named in the indictment, but he was one of the Israeli security officials who met with  Franklin when Franklin turned over U.S. secrets to Israel. The indictment against Franklin reads, in part:

On or about February 20, 2004, Franklin met in the cafeteria at the Pentagon with this person previously associated with an intelligence agency of Foreign Nation A and discussed a Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program. Foreign Nation A has previously been confirmed to be Israel, and the Middle Eastern country in question is Iran.

The “person” was Uzi Arad, who recently acknowledged to the Associated Press that he and Franklin had talked about “ordinary matters”.

Franklin was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison. He has not begun serving his time. He is expected to testify in the AIPAC lobbyists case, if it goes to trial. 

After his talk with Franklin in the Pentagon cafeteria, Arad was transfered back to Israel. For the past two years, he served as director of intelligence for Israel’s Mossad, his country’s equivalent to the CIA.  When Netanyahu became prime minister he chose Arad as director of Israel’s National Security Council.

Like Netanyahu, his new boss, Arad was opposed to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. As recently as last month he said he was against any territorial compromise with Palestinians.

Stephen Greene writes that Arad told a television interviewer: “We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of Palestinian populations, not the territories.”

Greene also points out that 

Under a long-standing section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (NA), foreign individuals suspected of engaging in espionage or sabotage against the U.S. cannot be granted a visa to come here.

When Secretary Clinton met recently with Prime Minister Netanyahu, she was aware of Arad’s exposure as a foreign agent in the Franklin case. She diplomatically suggested that the meeting have fewer participants, giving Netenyahu an excuse to let Arad leave the meeting.

Instead the prime minister dismissed Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, leaving Arad, Israel’s new Security Chief, in the room. Meridor has since resigned his position as ambassador. 

A few days later, Ha’aretz, a Jerusalem newspaper, said that Arad had been informed by U.S. administration officials that he would get his visa to enter the U.S.  He is expected to accompany Prime Minister Netanyahu when he travels to Washington in early May. 

Meanwhile, what about Congresswoman Jane Harman’s conversation, now on FBI tapes, with an Israeli agent, whose name has thus far not been revealed?  Several internet sources, including Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo, Daily Kos diarist Mark Levey, and Tikum Olam’s Richard Silverstein, all speculate that Jane Harman’s “mystery” Israeli Agent is Naor Gilon, (pictured here) an Israeli staffer assigned to the Washington Israeli embassy in 2004.                                         gilon-cropped2

The FBI had been tracking Gilon for several years. Silverstein discusses the bloggers tracking Gilon:

Raimondo notes that the reason the feds caught Rosen, Weissman and Franklin in flagrante was that they’d been surveilling Gilon, who was suspected of running an east coast spying ring on Israel’s behalf.  Several months after the arrest of the Aipac Two, Gilon left this country rather hastily (though Israel claims his normal tour of rotation was up).

Gilon had been in the U.S. government’s sights because of his suspected spy activities, according to  Juan Coles’ Informed Comment posting on December 12, 2004:

It was the spy rings that led the FBI to put Naor Gilon, the chief of political affairs at the Israeli embassy in Washington, under videotape surveillance. They were “floored” when Larry Franklin walked in and sat down and began offering Gilon a confidential document. Franklin was one of two Iran desk officers for the Near East and South Asia bureau at the Pentagon. 

Ron Kampeas reported in JTA, “The Global News Service of the Jewish People”, April 17 that, far from being in any sort of diplomatic penalty box because of his role in the Lawrence Franklin case, Naor has risen even further in the Israeli security ranks:

Avigdor Lieberman . . .  the foreign minister in the new Benjamin Netanyahu government, has asked Naor Gilon to take the top career slot at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, JTA has learned, effectively making Gilon his right hand man.

Gilon must clear a Foreign Ministry admissions committee before the announcement is formal, a process that has been delayed by the Passover holiday.

Gilon, then the political officer at Israel’s Washington embassy, allegedly met multiple times between 2002 and 2005 with Lawrence Franklin, a mid-level Iran analyst at the Pentagon who has since pleaded guilty in the case. The men allegedly discussed Iran’s nuclear program and its disruptive role in Iraq.

So Jane Harman can rest easy.  If Naor Gilon was in fact her “mystery” Israeli agent, there appears to be no lasting damage to Harman for chatting with him about pro-Israeli funders putting pressure on Speaker Pelosi.  

A much larger diplomatic battle between the U.S. and Israel awaits both nations. Jane Harman will be needed as a reliable soldier in the  Rahm Emanuel’s congressional trenches.  

President Obama is determined to forge a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine before the end of his first term. The new Netanyahu Israeli government has no intention of allowing the two state solution.

Obama knows what he faces, an experienced, and well-informed, Israeli team of  Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, assisted by Uzi Arad, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, backed by Naor Gilon. Arad and Gilon have been around in Washington long enough to know all the good restaurants. Uzi Arad has even spent some quality time in the Pentagon cafeteria. A fellow could pick up all sorts of helpful information in a place like that.

Netanyahu’s personal U.S. background is even more impressive. 

Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington from 1982-1984; and Israel’s United Nations ambassador from 1984 to 1988. Moved with his family to the US when he was 14, lived and graduated from high school in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. After a required stint in the Israeli Defense Force, Bibi returned to the US  for BS degree in architecture from MIT in 1975, an MS degree from MIT  in management in 1977.

And there is more: Bibi studied political science at both Harvard and MIT. Before returning to Israel, Netanyahu worked for a consulting firm in Boston. Lets face it: Israel has a prime minister who knows which state Cheltenham is in.

This is a man who has spent his life preparing to engage the United States in diplomatic warfare. No wonder he brushed aside Hillary Clinton’s attempt to exclude his man Uzi Arad from that Jerusalem meeting.

Now Bibi is ready for the main event: Toe to toe with Barack Obama, the new undisputed world champion.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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3 Responses to U.S. Justice Department May Drop Spy Case Against AIPAC Lobbyists

  1. Pauline Coffman says:

    Thanks for putting this puzzle together for us. I don’t know how you do it. By the way, one of our mutual friends thinks it is good that Netanyahu is now the PM….we know where he stands. I hope he is right.

  2. Pingback: Austoon Daily » U.S. Justice Department May Drop Spy Case Against AIPAC Lobbyists

  3. Harris Fawell says:

    Very interesting job of reporting. Thank you.

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