Reactions to the End of the Ridiculous AIPAC Case

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:

This was long overdue. The problem here was not just that court rulings had made convictions impossible. It was that there was no case to begin with. The idea that the government could prosecute two private individuals under the 1917 Espionage Act for passing along government leaks was absurd. The whole point of the exercise was obviously an attempt on the part of some people in the FBI to embarrass the pro-Israel lobby.
A shameful chapter in American judicial history is closed but the recriminations over this outrage should just be getting started.

My colleague Marc Ambinder:

In general, this is fairly good news for anyone who receives classified information -- like journalists -- and then publishes it in some form. (There are several types of classified information -- if the defendants had passed signal intelligence or evidence about collection systems to Israel, they'd have been tried under a different statute). Had the case gone to trail, the government was facing a loss, as its efforts to keep information out of the discovery process failed and its contention that the two AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, broke the law was challenged by U.S. government classification experts.

From the WSJ Editorial Board:

But Washington is not a normal world, and this prosecution needs to be understood in the context in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and the swirl of conspiracy theories about "neocon" and Jewish influence over U.S. policy. In this bizarro reading of events, President Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice chose to invade Iraq due to the influence of Jewish officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Scooter Libby and Richard Perle. One sign of those times: In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Franklin's arrest, CBS's Lesley Stahl asked whether "Israel [used] the analyst to try to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq?" In other words, the Aipac case resembled a political hit more than a legitimate "espionage" case.


Mr. Holder should also re-examine the Aipac case from start to finish. The real scandal in this case starts with the attempted criminalization of policy differences and legitimate lobbying, and ends up in the wiretapping of Congress and the wrecked careers of Messrs. Rosen, Weissman and Franklin. This smacks of abuse of power, and somebody at Justice should be held to account.

From David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy:

From what I've read, this investigation involved long-term phone taps, surveillance, and a sting operation, and they only managed to catch the staffers in [arguably] illegal activities once Franklin told them that he had classified information that the lives of specific Israeli agents in Iran were in danger. This seems like rather thin gruel given the scope of the investigation, which could mean that (1) the hearsay [that AIPAC staffer were engaging in wrongdoing, leading to the investigation] was wrong or exaggerated; (2) as the commentator above suggests, someone was out to get AIPAC; or (3) that the staffers had become more careful about not stepping over the legal line than when the feds got their original information. We are left to wonder whether 1, 2, or 3, or some combination, is correct.