The prosecution of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for mishandling classified information is attracting growing public attention and concern as the anomalous character of the case becomes increasingly clear.
It bears repeating that the two defendants, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, are not accused of being agents of Israel or any other foreign power. The government has stipulated that they are not. Although they are charged under “the Espionage Act,” this is not an espionage case.
What makes the whole affair more peculiar still is that the defendants did not even request the disclosure of the information they are accused of mishandling.
“Nowhere is it alleged that Dr. Rosen or Mr. Weissman stole, paid for or even solicited the information that they allegedly received,” the defense noted in a January 19 motion to dismiss.
A theory of the law that would penalize such informal transactions between citizens and government officials is obviously susceptible to extreme abuse.
See “First Amendment Issues Raised About Espionage Act” by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, March 31.
See also “Judge Calls Speech Rights Central to Espionage Case” by Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times, April 2.
Although Judge T.S. Ellis III questioned the government sharply at a March 24 hearing, there is no reason to deduce that he will dismiss the case. Such questioning typically serves to clarify the basis for prosecution and is, as often as not, a prelude to a ruling in favor of the government.
The jury trial in the case that was originally set for April 25 has been rescheduled for May 23, according to a notice in the case docket.
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