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(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
The prosecution in the case against two former AIPAC employees stated, in a document submitted to the court, that the fact that Israel is a US ally has no bearing on the case and cannot be seen as a relevant consideration in dealing with the actions of defendants Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.
The response to defense motions, which was filed with the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, refers to the defense's request to obtain depositions from Israeli diplomats to prove that "any actions that happened to inure to the benefit of Israel were always seen by Israel to benefit the United States."
The prosecution responded that the law "makes no distinctions between allies or enemies, friends or foes." Referring to Israel, the prosecutors added that "it is not for any foreign nation to opine on whether the threat posed by an unauthorized disclosure of United States national defense information jeopardizes the national security of the United States or is a violation of United States law."
The statement makes it clear that the US government does not accept the notion that passing on classified information to a friendly country does not cause any harm to the US.
The government is requesting the court deny the defense motion for submission of depositions from three Israeli diplomats who were mentioned in the indictment as being in contact with the AIPAC staffers and with Larry Franklin, the former Pentagon analyst. Franklin has already been sentenced to 12 years in prison for leaking classified information to AIPAC and the Israelis.
Two of the Israeli diplomats were identified as Naor Gilon, the former political officer at the Israeli embassy in Washington and Rafi Barak, the former deputy chief of Mission.
Israel has denied the defense request to take depositions from the diplomats or to allow them to appear in court. The prosecution also asked to interview the Israeli diplomats. Though Israel did not refuse, the modalities of such an interview had not been worked out yet, according to Israeli sources.
The defense would like the Israelis to help prove their claim that Rosen and Weissman were not Israeli agents, that they had not received payment from Israel for their work, and that there were "unique circumstances" that justify the fact that Rosen did pass on information to Gilon concerning a threat that Iranian terrorists might abduct and murder Israelis working in the Kurdish region in Iraq. It was only revealed later that information about the threat was given to Rosen and Weissman by Franklin as part of a sting operation, while Franklin was cooperating with the FBI.
Judge T.S. Ellis will hear the pre-trial motions of both sides next month. Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman will ask that the case be dismissed, claiming that prosecuting the former AIPAC employees under the Espionage Act would infringe on freedom of speech and the First Amendment, as it would be the first time in which civilians who are on the receiving end of a classified leak were put on trial.
In its response to the dismissal motion, the prosecution states that the law does not distinguish between government employees and others, and claims that "an ordinary person would know that foreign officials, journalists and other persons with no current affiliation to the US government would not be entitled to receive information related to our national defense."
If the motion to dismiss the case is rejected, the jury trial will begin on April 25.
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