Former ISOO Directors to Testify for Defense in AIPAC Trial

03.18.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In a blow to Justice Department prosecutors, two former directors of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) are expected to testify for the defense in the controversial trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with unlawful receipt and transmission of classified information.

Steven Garfinkel (ISOO director from 1980-2002) and J. William Leonard (2002-2007) have been the voice of classification authority across three decades and five presidential administrations. They inspected, oversaw and reported to the President on the government’s classification and declassification programs. And last week they were listed among eight proposed expert witnesses for the defense in the AIPAC case, formally known as USA v. Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman.

As deeply knowledgeable classification officials, Mr. Garfinkel and Mr. Leonard might have been expected to testify for the government in a case involving classification policy. The fact that they are testifying for the defense is a startling indication that the prosecution’s case has strayed far beyond any consensus view regarding the proper protection of classified information.

The surprising participation of these former classification officials was first reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the New York Sun. See “Key New Witnesses Sign on for the Defense in AIPAC Case” by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, March 17.

In another sign that the government’s case may be unraveling, the lead prosecutor quit last month to take a job in the private sector. See “Top prosecutor in AIPAC case quits,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 28.

Selected case files from the AIPAC prosecution may be found here.

Update: Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency elaborated:

Two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are facing charges that they traded in secrets now have on their side the two most recent arbiters of what is and isn’t a U.S. secret. […]

The agreement of Garfinkel and Leonard to serve as experts for the defense sets up the trial as a precedent-setting fight over the limits of secrecy.