May 1, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Prosecutors asked a judge to drop charges against two ex-AIPAC staffers accused of passing along classified information.
In a statement Friday, the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia said restrictions on the government's case imposed by Judge T.S. Ellis III made conviction unlikely.
"Given the diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial under the additional intent requirements imposed by the court and the inevitable disclosure of classified information that would occur at any trial in this matter, we have asked the court to dismiss the indictment," Dana Boente said.
The motion all but guarantees a dismissal.
"Intent requirements" refers to an earlier Ellis ruling that the government must prove that Keith Weissman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former Iran analyst, and Steve Rosen, its former foreign policy chief, intended not only to assist Israel but to harm the United States.
Weissman and Rosen were charged under a rarely used section of the 1917 Espionage Act that makes it a crime for civilians to receive and distribute closely held defense information. Both men were later dismissed by AIPAC, with the organization claiming the two had violated its rules; Rosen, in turn has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against AIPAC.
Reached by phone, Rosen told JTA he was "ecstatic" and was "still absorbing a life-changing moment." He had been on the phone Friday morning non-stop with family and friends.
"There was a great injustice here, but thank God we live in a country where the courts can correct this kind of injustice," he said.
For the immediate future, he said, he would focus on a book he was writing on government leaks.
Baruch Weiss, Weissman's lawyer, told JTA that the decision was a "great victory for the First Amendment and for the pro-Israel community."
Anything the defendants did "was to the benefit of Israel and the United States," he said.
The dropping of the case comes just days before the start Sunday of AIPAC's annual policy conference in Washington.