Federal prosecutors moved Friday to dismiss espionage-related charges against two former pro-Israel lobbyists accused of disclosing classified U.S. defense information, ending a tortuous inside-the-Beltway legal battle rife with national security intrigue.
Critics of the prosecution of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee accused the federal government of trying to criminalize the sort of back-channel discussions between government officials, lobbyists and reporters that are commonplace in the nation’s capital. AIPAC is an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.
Acting U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said the government moved to dismiss the charges in the drawn-out case after concluding that pretrial rulings would make it too difficult for the government to prove its case.
Boente also said he was worried that classified information would be disclosed at trial.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III had made several legal rulings that prosecutors worried would make it almost impossible to obtain a guilty verdict. Among them was a requirement that the government would have to prove that Rosen and Weissman knew they were harming the United States by trading in sensitive national defense information.
The defense had also been prepared to put on a strong case that the information obtained by Rosen and Weissman, while technically classified, was not truly secret and that its disclosure was irrelevant to the nation’s security.
The federal government’s former arbiter of classification, J. William Leonard, was prepared to testify for the defense that the government overuses classification and applies the label to information that by any practical measure does not need to be secret. The government had sought to bar Leonard’s testimony.
The trial had been scheduled to start June 2 in a case first brought in 2005.
NOTE: Blogger and fellow ME commentator TINSC told the TT way back, when the charges against these men were first levied, that there was nothing to them, the men were innocent. TINSC is now proven to have been correct from the very beginning.