AIPAC Defiant Over FBI Probe of Alleged Leak

Janine Zacharia - Jerusalem Post - Sep. 3, 2004

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) responded indignantly on Thursday to a report in the Washington Post that said the pro-Israel lobby group has been the subject of a two-year FBI counterintelligence probe including whether highly classified material from the top-secret National Security Agency was forwarded by the lobby to Israel.

"AIPAC is, of course, unaware of whether or not it has been the subject of a 'counterintelligence probe' to determine whether two employees passed on classified intelligence to Israel, as reported in [Thursday's] Washington Post. Despite the spate of press stories on this matter we have yet to be told by the authorities what the nature of their inquiry into the activities of AIPAC or its employees actually are," AIPAC said in a statement.

"If [Thursday's] Washington Post report of a two-year ongoing probe of AIPAC is true, than surely the confidence demonstrated by the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, the highest officials in the Executive Branch, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and countless other congressional leaders including key members of the intelligence committees in continuing to regularly meet and address AIPAC during this period of time is substantial vindication of AIPAC's loyalty and trustworthiness," the statement added.

The statement said the fact that President George W. Bush and other senior officials continued to meet with the group over the two-year period was proof that any FBI probe had found no wrongdoing by AIPAC. It was the group's first statement since its initial response to the CBS News report on the espionage investigation last Friday, in which the lobby denied any wrongdoing.

"Apparently nothing turned up during this rigorous two-year probe of AIPAC's activities to deter President Bush from addressing AIPAC's Policy Conference on May 18, 2004. Nor has information surfaced that has prevented scores of other administration and Congressional leaders from speaking regularly and candidly with AIPAC officials, or addressing major AIPAC events and meeting with AIPAC leaders," the statement said.

"It is surely inconceivable that if any shred of evidence of disloyalty or even negligence on AIPAC's part had been discovered in the course of the type of meticulous scrutiny as described by the Washington Post, it would have not been tolerated by American law enforcement or ignored by the president, his national security adviser, and other top officials of the US government," it added.

AIPAC released a list of 37 senior Bush administration officials and top legislators who have addressed the lobby's national gatherings since March 2003, including the president himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and the president's coordinator for counterterrorism, J. Cofer Black.

So far no one has been charged with any wrongdoing in the case, which was first reported to center on whether a mid-level Pentagon staffer, Larry Franklin, passed a draft of a presidential directive on US policy toward Iran to two AIPAC staffers, who in turn may have turned the information over to Israel.

A broader investigation of AIPAC could have enormous implications for the group, which prides itself on its wealth of contacts in Washington and the trust it has built up with officials.

Norman Orenstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told a breakfast hosted by the American Jewish Committee in New York on Thursday that he had a "very, very hard time believing" that anybody in AIPAC would have passed classified information to Israel.

But, he said, just the impression of wrongdoing could prove menacing.

"I'm a little bit worried about this," he said. "We know there are people out there who delight in suggesting America's policies are driven by Jews with dual loyalties."

  • See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page