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Justice Dept. Drops AIPAC Spy Case.


From New York Times

WASHINGTON — A case that began four years ago with the tantalizing and volatile premise that officials of a major pro-Israel lobbying organization were illegally trafficking in sensitive national security information collapsed on Friday as prosecutors asked that all charges be withdrawn.

From the beginning, the case against the lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was highly unusual. The two, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged under the World War I-era Espionage Act, accused of improperly providing to their colleagues, journalists and Israeli diplomats sensitive information they had acquired by speaking with American policy makers.

The case had raised delicate political issues about the role played by American Jewish supporters of Israel and their close, behind-the-scenes relationships with top government officials. The decision to drop the case comes just days before Aipac is scheduled to begin its annual policy conference in Washington, which has often served as an advertisement of its influence.

The Justice Department said that the decision to drop the case had been made solely by career prosecutors in Alexandria, and that senior officials of the Obama administration had acted only to approve the recommendation.

These officials said David S. Kris, the newly appointed chief of the department’s national security division, and Dana J. Boente, the interim United States attorney in Alexandria, had conferred regularly with prosecutors and ultimately decided to accept the recommendation to abandon the case. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was informed and raised no objections.

The case would have been the first prosecution under the espionage law in which no documents were involved and in which the defendants were not officials who provided the information, but the private citizens who received it from them in conversations.

The investigation of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman also surfaced recently in news reports that Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat long involved in intelligence matters, was overheard on a government wiretap discussing the case. Ms. Harman was overheard agreeing with an Israeli intelligence operative to try to intercede with Bush administration officials to obtain leniency for Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman in exchange for help in persuading Democratic leaders to make her chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee. She is to be among the featured speakers at the Aipac conference next week.

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