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(photo credit: US Government [file])
Defense attorneys in the case of two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are taking a new approach in attempts to get depositions from three Israeli diplomats referred to in the indictment.
Defending Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who are awaiting trial on charges of communicating national defense information, the attorneys told the court last week that the Legal Cooperation Treaty signed between Israel and the US in the late 1990s, to help with criminal investigations in both countries, can be used to take depositions from the three diplomats, who are all in Israel.
Judge T.S. Ellis of the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, has not yet ruled on the request to move forward with taking depositions from the Israelis, and even if he does grant the motion, the court has no authority to compel the Israelis to give depositions or to testify.
Use of the Legal Cooperation Treaty by the defense is intended to counter claims by the government that there would be no sense in allowing the defense to enter depositions from the Israelis because they would not agree to be deposed anyway.
The Israeli diplomats, mentioned in the indictment as "foreign officials," served at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and according to court documents were in touch with Rosen, Weissman and Larry Franklin. The latter is the former Pentagon analyst who pleaded guilty to passing on classified information regarding Iran and Iraq.
The prosecution opposed the request to depose the Israelis and told the court that their testimony would not be significant for the case. Representatives of the Israeli diplomats have already rejected requests by the defense to provide depositions in the case.
A document filed in the court by the prosecution, which contained a report by FBI agents who conducted the investigation, indicated that one of the Israeli diplomats - identified in the media as Naor Gilon - had received information from Franklin and from AIPAC officials.
The document, which was first reported in The New York Sun on Friday, describes a conversation between Rosen and FBI agents who came to his home on August 27, 2004. The report reads: "The FBI knew Franklin provided classified information to the Israeli official. The Israeli official indicated he already had the information and it was provided by AIPAC."
Attorneys for Rosen and Weissman asked the court to declare their clients' initial statements to the FBI as inadmissible because the defendants were tricked into giving them.
According to the motion by attorneys Abbe Lowell and John Nassikas, the FBI told Rosen and Weissman that they were investigating Franklin and concealed the fact that the two former AIPAC staffers were also under surveillance and were suspects in the case.
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