The espionage case that sent shockwaves throughout the pro-Israel community came to an end Friday, as the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The decision was based, according to court filings, on the prosecution’s assessment that winning the trial, scheduled to begin June 2, would be a difficult task and that the court proceedings could require the exposure of classified information. A previous ruling by Judge T.S. Ellis III had required the prosecution prove that Rosen and Weissman knew in advance that their actions would harm American national security.
“Given the diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial under the additional intent requirements imposed by the court and the inevitable disclosure of classified information that would occur at any trial in this matter, we have asked the court to dismiss the indictment,” wrote acting Virginia District Attorney Dana Boente in a motion filed Friday.
Judge Ellis is expected to rule on Friday’s motion shortly. A dismissal would officially close the case, almost four years after Rosen and Weissman were indicted.
The two Aipac staffers were accused of communicating classified information they received from Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin to an Israeli diplomat, to their bosses at Aipac and to a journalist. They were caught as part of a sting operation in which Franklin cooperated with FBI.
Rosen told the Forward on Friday that he is pleased with the Department of Justice’s decision to drop the case. “This was an unjust prosecution,” he said in a phone interview, “but thank god we live in a country where courts can correct this.”
Aipac fired Rosen and Weissman in 2005, citing the staffers’ conduct. Rosen’s and Weissman’s lawyers argued that Aipac decided to dismiss them after being pressured by the FBI and following a promise that if the lobby cuts ties with the two former staffers, the government would not go after Aipac. Rosen has recently filed a civil lawsuit against his former bosses, arguing their charges against him amount to defamation.
Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for Aipac, issued a brief statement following the decision to drop the case. “We are pleased that the Department of Justice has dismissed the charges. This is a great day for Steve Rosen, Keith Weissman and their families,” Dorton said. Aipac would not provide any further comment on the issue.
Rosen and Weissman had both expressed their frustration with the way they were treated by Aipac after news of the case broke. Both have been unemployed for most of the past four years, although Rosen recently began working for the Middle East Forum, a right-leaning think tank based in Philadelphia.
The Aipac case had reached the headlines once again last month, after it was revealed that Congresswoman Jane Harman had been wiretapped following a conversation she had with a suspected Israeli agent, in which he allegedly promised her political benefits in return for her trying to help the Aipac defendants.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.