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Defense Analyst Charged with Sharing Secrets; AIPAC’s Future Is Uncertain

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May - June 2005

Lawrence Franklin, a Defense Department policy analyst, was charged in May with disclosing classified information related to potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq to two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have left their jobs amid what sources have said is a long-running FBI probe into whether they passed classified U.S. data to the government of Israel.  

The New York Times (May 5, 2005) reports that, “The inquiry has cast a cloud over AIPAC, which employed the two men who are said to have received the classified information from Mr. Franklin. ... AIPAC recently took action to distance itself from the two men. ... It dismissed Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman after months of defending them, ... Mr. Rosen and Mr, Weissman had regular discussions with Israeli officials about the Middle East, and investigators have long said that they believed that the AIPAC employees had veered into the area of national security, meeting with Israeli officials, including intelligence agents, although the affidavit made no mention of Israel as a recipient of any information.”  

Rosen expects to be indicted as soon as June, according to informed sources. He has vowed that if he is indicted, he will go to trial in an effort to clear his name. He expects that a trial could begin as early as next January and already is preparing for a long defense.  

The Forward (April 29, 2005) provided this assessment: “Rosen, who reportedly has been the subject of an FBI probe for allegedly passing documents to an Israeli diplomat in 2003, is widely credited with turning AIPAC into America’s most powerful foreign policy lobbying organization and one of the strongest lobbies in Washington. Rosen emerged as a lobbying rainmaker, a Washington fixture who has friends and allies in the most influential positions of America’s policy establishment. Yet for years, Jewish communal leaders felt uneasy with what they saw as his secretive, Machiavellian mode of operation, as well as with his often confrontational and abrasive demeanor ... When AIPAC confirmed that he had been sacked, nobody gloated about his demise, but several Jewish activists were relieved to see him go. ‘Steve embodies what many don’t like about AIPAC, the overreaching in using Jewish power,’ one Jewish communal leader said. ‘He is now the victim of his own overreaching.”  

This past December, AIPAC released a statement saying that “neither AIPAC nor any member of our staff has broken any law.” But in mid-April the organization issued a statement saying that it had fired Rosen and Weissman “after careful consideration of recently learned information and the conduct AIPAC expects of its employees.’ All past statements of support for the two men were removed from the organization’s Web site.  

According to The Forward (May 6, 2005), “A recent FBI interrogation of an Israeli defense expert may indicate that the Justice Department’s investigation into the contacts between America’s pro-Israel lobby and a Pentagon analyst is broader in scope than previously believed. The expert, Uzi Arad, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Herzlya, said that two months ago FBI agents interviewed him about his contacts with the Pentagon Iran specialist, Larry Franklin.  

During the hour-long interview, he said, the FBI agents brought up the name of an American Jewish Committee official, Eran Lerman, who is a former senior official in Israeli military intelligence. ... Arad’s comment ... may suggest that the FBI is investigating more than the alleged unlawful contacts between Franklin and AIPAC officials.”  

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