WASHINGTON - In an unusual move, a US judge has scheduled a second oral hearing on the request of former AIPAC lobbyists to dismiss the case against them.
Judge T.S. Ellis of the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, is to hear on Friday for the second time the arguments of both sides regarding the use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, both former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
In the first hearing, held on March 24, the judge agreed that prosecuting two civilians for receiving oral classified information might involve issues concerning the First Amendment, since there was not much of difference between lobbyists receiving classified information and journalists who do the same.
Ellis said there was no precedent for such a case and that the prosecution was entering "unchartered waters." He called on the prosecution to submit a detailed response to the defense's request to dismiss the case.
After receiving the government's new brief, which cited a case from the 1950s in which a Russian spy was charged for hearing classified information without any documents passing hands, Ellis decided to call both sides to the courtroom again to discuss the motion for the second time.
If the motion to dismiss is not granted, the trial of Rosen and Weissman is to begin on May 23.