AIPAC lobbyists, US analyst plead not guilty of disclosing classified data

Haaretz - August 17, 2005

Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

A Pentagon analyst and two former officials of th American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defense information.

Steven Rosen, 63, the former foreign policy director for AIPAC, and AIPAC's former senior Middle East analyst, Keith Weissman, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to communicate national defense information provided by analyst Lawrence Franklin.

Rosen also pleaded not guilty to helping Franklin, 58, pass on written classified information.

The three will be tried together on Jan. 3, 2006.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory said the total information at issue in the case related to five documents. He did not give any further details.

Rosen and Weissman, 53, are accused of disclosing the classified information to some members of the media, a senior fellow at a Washington think tank and at least three foreign government officials.

Franklin had been previously indicted on similar charges but had to appear in court under a revised indictment. He repeated his plea of not guilty to five counts of conspiring to communicate classified information.

Franklin worked as an analyst on the Iran desk within the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the time the government says he disclosed classified information. His case was a reminder of another that strained U.S. relations with close ally Israel- the 1985 arrest of U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, convicted of leaking information to the Jewish state.

Franklin was charged with giving Rosen and Weissman- whom AIPAC fired in April after defending their conduct last year- top-secret information about potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

Franklin was also charged with giving classified information to an unidentified diplomat, as part of an effort to advance his personal foreign policy agenda, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Franklin gave the diplomat classified information related to a Middle Eastern country's activities in Iraq.

The indictment also charged that between August 2002 and June 2004, Franklin gave the diplomat classified information relating to a weapons test conducted by an unnamed Middle Eastern country.

Sources familiar with the investigation have said the diplomat was Israeli.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis ordered all three defendants to surrender their passports and released them on bond but restricted their travel.

Some of the charges faced by defendants carry penalties of up to 10 years in jail.

Lawyers for the men refused to comment after the arraignment outside Washington.

When the indictment was returned earlier this month, Rosen's attorney Abbe Lowell called the charges unjustified.

"We expect that the trial will show that this prosecution represents a misguided attempt to criminalize the public's right to participate in the political process," he said after the indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on Aug. 4.

The Israeli diplomat in Washington who met several times with Franklin has been identified by officials as Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and a specialist in proliferation issues.

Israeli officials in Washington have said Gilon recently returned to Israel as part of a scheduled rotation.

  • See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page