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Commentary Last Updated: Jun 4th, 2009 - 00:46:40

The AIPAC espionage case: We can�t even take the law into our own hands
By John Taylor
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 4, 2009, 00:23

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Uncle Sam doesn�t protect us from external threats. Our politicians willingly sacrifice our security for personal and political gain. Those in power consistently refuse to accept responsibility for their bad decisions and misjudgments and our system doesn�t call them to account.

The poster child for governance American-style in the 21st Century is Condi Rice. In her testimony before the 9/11 Commission in May of 2004 she actually denied that the President�s Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, entitled �Al Qaeda determined to strike inside the US,� meant just what it said, that Al Qaeda was determined to attack inside the US. And she couldn�t recall whether she discussed the rising terrorist threat with President Bush. No matter, a few months later the Senate confirmed Ms. Rice as Secretary of State, an office in which she would be no more than an indefatigable huckster for the Bush administration�s failed foreign policy.

Safely back at Stanford now, Ms. Rice remains in her �it�s not my fault� mode. Finding herself in a heated discussion with some undergraduates about her role in approving torture, Rice employed what might be called the �empty shirt� defense: she claimed that she had not approved torture, but merely �conveyed� the Bush administration�s decision to torture to the CIA. One wonders whether that would have gotten her off at Nuremberg.

Although interagency communications failures were in large part responsible for the �success� of the 9/11 plot, no senior officials from the FBI or the CIA resigned or were fired. The decision to hold no one in government accountable kept George Tenet at the CIA long enough for him to put the agency�s seal on the Bush administration�s bogus claims that Saddam Hussein had mature WMD programs and an operational relationship with Al Qaeda.

Other senior Bush administration bureaucrats vigorously pitching the invasion of Iraq, Pentagon number two, Paul Wolfowitz, Office of Special Plans chief Doug Feith and Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle, did not resign when their accusations proved to be entirely false. Perhaps that�s because although the Iraq war has been a trillion dollar fiasco for the United States, for Feith and Perle it was a personal triumph. Back in 1998 they prepared a strategic assessment, �A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,� for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In �A Clean Break� Feith and Perle emphasized that removing Saddam�s regime was of crucial importance to the state of Israel.

The failure to put the interests of the American people before politics, personal advancement and fund-raising is a bipartisan problem.

At the beginning of last month, the Obama administration decided to drop espionage charges against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, former senior staffers at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Weissman and Rosen had been charged with passing classified information about American policy deliberations on Iran and operational intelligence on Iraq to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Why charges against Rosen and Weissman were dismissed, considering that one of their co-defendants, ex-Pentagon employee Larry Franklin, got 12 years after pleading guilty in the same affair, remains something of a mystery. Perhaps President Obama felt uncomfortable sending VP Biden to AIPAC�s annual meeting in May while two ex-AIPAC employees were under indictment for spying. Or perhaps California Congresswoman Jane �this conversation doesn�t exist� Harman, caught on tape promising an Israeli agent to do her best to get the charges against Rosen and Weissman dismissed, got her message to the right person.

Congresswoman Harman seems to have been keen to enlist the help of the Israel lobby in her quest for the chairmanship of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In return for getting the charges against Rosen and Weissman dropped, major Democratic Party contributor Haim Saban and like-minded friends were to threaten House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with withholding their annual campaign contributions unless Harman got the top job on the Intelligence Committee. No one in the Justice Department or elsewhere in government seems anxious to challenge Harman�s unseemly and possibly illegal relationship with a foreign agent and the incident is rapidly disappearing down the memory hole.

In any event, if you have any doubts that politics played a major role in letting these two lobbyists off, I suggest you ask yourself what would have happened if the Justice Department had secured an indictment against a couple of officers of the Arab American Institute for passing top secret information about Iran to the Syrian Embassy. Think the charges against them would have been dropped?

On the same day the Justice Department announced it was not going to prosecute Rosen and Weissman, Rosen gave an Israeli TV station a long and sometimes amusing interview. Rosen related that when FBI agents first turned up at his door early one morning his wife thought that the well dressed men were evangelicals from a local church on a proselytizing mission. Rosen also compared himself to Alfred Dreyfus, and complained that when AIPAC fired him he lost his health insurance and other emoluments, difficulties perhaps, but not strictly comparable to solitary confinement for several years on Devil�s Island.

Rosen refused to denounce AIPAC because he �was not going to be a tool for Walt and Mersheimer and all the slime out there� while at the same time suggesting strongly that AIPAC owed him a significant financial settlement. He said of the FBI and federal prosecutors, � . . . they hate Steve Rosen, they hate AIPAC and they hate Israel.�

During the interview Rosen defended himself claiming that his relationship with the imprisoned Larry Franklin was entirely routine and above board. Rosen remarked that he had �worked with US government officials every day for 23 years . . . I would meet with people in the State Department, the National Security Council, the Defense Department.� One wonders whether all of Rosen�s meetings with government officials resembled the way he met co-conspirator Franklin: Rosen�s indictment states, �On or about March 10, 2003, FRANKLIN, ROSEN and WEISSMAN met at Union Station early in the morning. In the course of the meeting, the three men moved from one restaurant to another and finished the meeting in an empty restaurant.�

Rosen lamented he never had his day in court because �all the facts would have come out and what it would have shown is that I did nothing wrong.� I believe, like the federal grand jury that indicted him, that had Rosen had his day in court he would have joined Franklin for a long stretch in federal prison.

Sometimes to protect ourselves extraordinary steps have to be taken. Rosen�s case cries out for a private prosecution, a legal action undertaken by private citizens when the government refuses to act. Unfortunately the court precluded that possibility by dismissing Rosen�s indictment �with prejudice,� meaning that spying charges against him cannot be reinstated.

John Taylor, a lifelong Republican, received an AB in Near Eastern Languages from The University of Chicago. He is a US Army veteran. As a young man he served in the Middle East as a civil servant, archaeologist and banker. Prior to retirement he worked in the energy business in Texas for 20 years.

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