Federal Trial Tests Secrets

By Mitchell Kaidy

In one of the most fateful cases involving American Middle East policy, a federal judge is deciding whether to raise the curtains that have shrouded pro-Israel lobbying, influenced American foreign policy, and made the Israel the United States’ most bountiful aid recipient.

The case also contains portents for future American war policy toward Middle East nations such as Iran and Syria.

The question before US District Judge T.S. Ellis III is whether to release secret government information about AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) or dismiss the case to preserve those secrets.
Some public agencies are claiming that releasing classified information as the trial goes on might undermine classified information regarding war, military spending and the widespread influence of the pro-Israel lobby.

The defendants in the case are former pro-Israel lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, respectively the former foreign policy and Iran analyst of AIPAC, one of Washington’s most effective special-interest organizations.

At a pre-trial hearing, Judge Ellis decided it was in the public interest to accede to journalists’ and publishers’ requests to open the case to full coverage. But, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the price could force government prosecutors to pull the plug on the case.

At first blush it would appear the mainstream media would hunger to get behind the highly-secret front. And they do — but on their own terms. The critical issue is that media companies and reportorial organizations insist on using “graymail” i.e. self-chosen leaks to report the trial.

And this may be unacceptable to both the government and the trial judge: the clash which has delayed the start of the trial, may cause its sudden demise. US prosecutors have told Judge Ellis that it’s critical to limit disclosure of classified information, even at the expense of foreclosing the trial if government prosecutors so move.

During the prosecution of Oliver North in the Iran/Contra scandal almost 20 years ago, the media generally didn’t traffic in releasing classified information. This was also true a few years ago in the prosecution of an alleged Russian spy. That case remained below the radar, preserving secret information.

According to one activist participant in the trial, the Institute for Research in Middle East Policy based in Washington, making restricted information substantially available “has led to a wider, misguided war, wasteful military spending, and perpetuating the influence of the Israel lobby.

In a news release, IRMEP deplored the double standard and questioned whether the public will ever learn about covert lobbying based on insider information in influencing Middle East policy and actions. It expressed concern that organizations and individuals which pulled strings in the Iraq war might be bent on skewing American policy toward Iran.

The American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a close observer of AIPAC, observes, “The demise of AIPAC — or its being required to register as a foreign lobby and disclose its sources of income/expenditures — would help bring peace and security to Arabs, Iranians, Israelis and Americans alike.”

Mitchell Kaidy reports from Rochester, N.Y. Email mkaidy@rochester.rr.com.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2007

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