U.S. too lenient on Israeli spies

May 6, 2009 - 0:0

In 2005, Lawrence A. Franklin, an analyst employed by the Pentagon, pled guilty to passing the details of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran to the most influential pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and was sentenced to 151 months in prison.

Also alleged to be involved were two AIPAC employees, Keith Weissman and Steven J. Rosen, and they were charged with conspiring to obtain classified information for onward transmission to an Israeli diplomat, as well as news organizations. AIPAC was quick to distance itself from the two men, who were swiftly fired.
While Franklin has been cooling his heels behind bars, Weissman and Rosen have maintained their innocence. In the meantime, the FBI has been busy trying to build a solid case against them and believes it has now done so.
However, the prosecution has had to face numerous obstacles in the form of pre-trial rulings on classification of evidence and has had the bar set high in terms of levels of proof and intentionality. In other words, prosecutors would have to prove that the two men harbored the deliberate intention of causing harm to the United States.
Apparently that bar was set too high as this week Federal prosecutors decided to dump the trial that was set for June 2 on the grounds that there is a “diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial& and the inevitable disclosure of classified information that would occur”. No doubt, Franklin is kicking himself. If only he had resisted laying bare his soul, he might be in the same privileged position as his AIPAC contacts.
Due to this turn of events, conspiracy theorists are having a field day. Suspicions centre on a 2005 National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap that recorded California Democrat Representative Jane Harman discussing the Weissman/Rosen affair with an alleged Israeli agent.
And during this monitored conversation, Harman apparently offered to attempt to get the charges against the two men dropped or reduced in exchange for AIPAC's assistance in getting her a coveted appointment as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Both the FBI and the Justice Department launched an investigation, according to Time magazine, which was dropped upon pressure from then U.S. attorney-general Alberto Gonzales, who wanted Harman to back the NSA's controversial practice of wiretapping without a warrant. She vehemently claimed there was no quid pro quo and has always denied offering to use her influence in favor of the AIPAC duo. Nevertheless, the fact that Harman is unusually cozy with AIPAC is undeniable. In 2006, she invited 120 of AIPAC's financial backers to dinner in her own home.
Others suspect that the Obama administration wanted to give this sweetener to AIPAC in light of possible upcoming contretemps with the new Netanyahu-led Israeli government over its unwillingness to accept a two-state solution and quit colony expansion. There are also serious differences between the U.S. and Israel on how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program.
Some American newspapers are characterizing the Justice Department's about turn as a surprise. But in light of the U.S. culture towards Israeli spies in particular, this is certainly no shocker. There's an ingrained attitude of 'oh, they were spying for our best friends Israel, so no problem at all'. One can be fairly sure that if the two suspects had been Arabs, Pakistanis or Iranians, the case would have had an entirely different outcome.
One spy for Israel who did fall into the net is Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst, who received a life sentence for his crimes in 1987. Since, Israel has granted his Israeli citizenship request and paid for his lawyers. The Israeli government has admitted he had been working for them and successive governments have requested his release.
What's interesting is that Pollard has many American supporters who have launched a long-running campaign to free him, saying his sentence was disproportionate because, after all, he wasn't spying for an enemy. They fail to answer the question why allies should be spying on their friends. In fact, spying on friends is, arguably, more reprehensible than using espionage on foes.
I suspect that many more spies for Israel are conveniently allowed to disappear into the ether after they are caught. Why were 120 so-called Israeli art students, who sold paintings from door to door, including military bases and the homes and offices of federal employees, arrested and deported? Most of these young people were involved in operating electronic bugging equipment and were mentioned in a Drug Enforcement Agency intelligence report as being possibly involved in “an organized intelligence-gathering activity”.
The fact is that no U.S. government wants to tangle with Israel or the powerful AIPAC. It's likely that President Barack Obama has opted for the easy option. So, we'll just have to put up with a holier than thou Weissman and Rosen, who despite their alleged treachery are now officially whiter than white. It's not surprising that anyone who hates America's double standards and official chicanery will see red.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs.
(Source: Gulf News