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Ex-Lobbyists in U.S. Case of Espionage Win a Round

Ex-Lobbyists in U.S. Case of Espionage Win a Round
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times | Submitted by Michael Munk |

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of two former lobbyists for a pro-Israeli advocacy group in deciding how much classified information they may use in their defense on espionage charges.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., ruled against the government and in favor of the defendants, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, whose trial is now scheduled for April. The appeals court also refused to entertain the government’s objections to a series of formidable hurdles to a conviction put in place by the trial judge.

The defendants, former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, were charged with violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for sharing information they learned from foreign policy officials in the Bush administration with journalists, Israeli government officials and fellow Aipac employees.

The case has received an extraordinary amount of attention for many reasons, including its inevitable connection to the ways some American-Jewish supporters of Israel try to influence government policy. Supporters of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman have asserted that they were unfairly singled out and were involved in only the kind of free trade in information that is a regular and protected part of policy making.

John N. Nassikas III and Baruch Weiss, two of the defense lawyers, said Tuesday that they believed the appellate ruling and an earlier one by the trial judge greatly increased the prosecutors’ difficulty in continuing the case. “These will hopefully cause the government to reconsider its prosecution of the case,” they said.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., which is handling the case, said, “We are reviewing the decision and will respond in court.”


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