Ex-AIPAC official threatens to uncover mass spying at Israel lobby
Is US’s most influential advocate for Israel about to implode?
A former foreign policy chief for the largest Israeli lobby in the US is threatening to provide evidence members of the organization regularly trafficked in classified US government information.
The claim comes in the midst of an increasingly ugly lawsuit in which parties have alleged or admitted to mass viewing of pornography among senior staffers at AIPAC as well as extra-marital affairs.
Steve Rosen, who was in charge of foreign policy issues at AIPAC until 2005, is suing his former employer for $20 million, alleging that AIPAC defamed him when they fired him. Rosen and colleague Keith Weissman were charged in 2004 with espionage for allegedly pressuring a Washington Post reporter into running classified US government information they had obtained about Iran. The charges were dropped last year, evidently due to lack of evidence.
But AIPAC fired Rosen years before the charges were dropped, on the grounds that Rosen’s “conduct did not comport with what AIPAC would expect of its employees.”
But Rosen disputes this, and his lawsuit aims to prove that what he allegedly did was standard practice at AIPAC. The Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein reports:
Rosen says his actions were common practice at the organization. He said his next move is to show that AIPAC, Washington’s major pro-Israeli lobbying group by far, regularly traffics in sensitive U.S. government information, especially material related to the Middle East.
“I will introduce documentary evidence that AIPAC approved of the receipt of classified information,” he said by e-mail. “Most instances of actual receipt are hard to document, because orally received information rarely comes with classified stamps on it nor records alerts that the information is classified.”
But Rosen said he would produce “statements of AIPAC employees to the FBI, internal documents, deposition statements, public statements and other evidence showing that [the] receipt of classified information by employees other than [himself] … was condoned … for months prior to being condemned in March 2005 after threats from the prosecutors.”“Unfortunately for AIPAC, Rosen has 180 documents which could prove that Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, and probably the AIPAC board as well, knew exactly what Rosen was doing,” reports M.J. Rosenberg at Al-Jazeera.
He suggests that Rosen’s threat to reveal AIPAC trafficking of data is meant to intimidate the lobby group into settling out of court. Making the lawsuit go away “will not be easy – even if Steve Rosen ultimately accepts a payoff from the organization and refrains from telling what he knows,” Rosenberg writes.
Other elements of the lawsuit could prove embarrassing, if not politically toxic. Lawyers for AIPAC got Rosen to admit he viewed pornography on work computers, but Rosen has countered that the head of AIPAC and his closest colleagues openly watched porn at work. The Jewish Daily Forward reports:
“I witnessed [AIPAC executive director] Howard Kohr viewing pornographic material, [Kohr’s secretary] Annette Franzen viewing pornographic material, probably a dozen other members of the staff,” Rosen said in his deposition. He added that, according to a Nielsen survey, more than a quarter of Americans regularly view pornographic websites at their workplace.
Later in his deposition, the former lobbyist also said he had heard from directors at AIPAC about their visits to prostitutes and he claimed Kohr had routinely used “locker room language” at the AIPAC offices.Rosenberg posits that the lawsuit “could well destroy the lobby without ever making its way on to the front page. AIPAC is under siege, and is spending millions to stay alive.”