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Former Bush adviser joins NGO to press Israel to let former agent testify against Bank of China
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
20/12/2013
Kenneth Wainstein to aide Shurat Hadin after Israel pulled support from case citing protection of national security secrets.
 
A top homeland security adviser to former US president George W. Bush spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday regarding the battle between Israel and the families of victims of terror over whether former Israeli government agent Uzi Shaya can testify in the families’ US terror financing case against the Bank of China.

Kenneth Wainstein was retained by Shurat Hadin – the Israel Law Center – on Tuesday to argue the issue before a US Federal Court on behalf of 22 families who hope to prove that the bank knowingly allowed Hamas and Islamic Jihad to use accounts at the bank to launder money used for perpetrating attacks in Israel against their loved ones in 2006- 2007.

Shurat Hadin has said that for years Israel encouraged the families to file their case and assisted their case by providing information, including a 2008 affidavit by government agent Shlomo Matalon, which described exactly where and how the money- laundering occurred.

It has said that Shaya was provided by the government for testifying in the case.

But in mid-November the government filed a motion to block him from testifying in the US court, with Shurat Hadin accusing the government of folding under geopolitical pressure from China and concerns which are external to the case.

The Israeli government has based its objection to Shaya testifying in the US case mostly on sovereign immunity, avoiding setting a dangerous precedent in which its officials, including intelligence officials, can be compelled to testify in foreign courts, and avoiding revealing national security secrets.

Wainstein explained how he planned to rebut the government’s objections to letting Shaya testify, he said that this case involves a “very fact specific analysis since the particular facts the plaintiffs are seeking to elicit, were already put out in the public domain” by government agent Shlomo Matalon’s affidavit.

He said that this fact “greatly diminished” any concerns about setting bad precedents and the sovereign immunity defense, since few future cases are unlikely to have the same volume of information already in the public domain.

Wainstein added that he believed this to be true despite being “highly sensitive to the concern of creating precedents” which could damage national security following decades of work not only as Bush’s homeland security adviser, but also as a top official in the FBI and US Justice Department.

Addressing the issue of state secrets, Wainstein said that “what we are seeking is not new information and a federal judge has committed to monitoring [Shaya’s] deposition” which is a “good guarantee she will make sure it doesn’t wander away from what is relevant” and there will be no “fishing expeditions” into unrelated “sensitive areas regarding the Chinese government.”

Asked about a reported comment from former national security council head Yaakov Amidror that the goal of the case was already achieved since its filing had ended Chinese facilitation of terror financing, Wainstein said that “only specific deterrence” has been achieved, but that there is “a value of general deterrence, making it clear that if anyone allows financial institutions to use terror financing, they can be expected to pay a price.”

He also said that besides that, the plaintiffs should be able to have their rights “vindicated in a court of law.”
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