Rice Subpoenaed in AIPAC Lobbyists' Case

Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell, representing former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen in a case in which he and fellow lobbyist Keith Weissman are charged with receiving and disclosing classified National Security information, has subpoenaed Secretary of State Condi Rice and other officials, alleging that they also disclosed such information. The Government sought to quash the subpoenas but it the Court has approved them.

The point is not to go after Rice, but to demonstrate to the judge that the law prohibiting disclosures is overly vague, and it is often not possible to discern what is legal from what is illegal to receive and disclose. The Judge has said he's close to tossing the Government's charges because of the vagueness and overbreadth of the law which may impermissibly infringe on protected free speech.

Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said the testimony of Rice and others is needed to show that some of the top officials in U.S. government approved of disclosing sensitive information to the defendants and that the leaks may have been authorized.

Prosecutors opposed the effort to depose Rice and the other officials. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory also disputed Lowell's claim, saying, "She never gave national defense information to Mr. Rosen."

David Satterfield, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq, William Burns, U.S. ambassador to Russia and retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni were also subpoenaed by Lowell:

"Each of these individuals have real-life dealings with the defendants in this case. They'll explain what they told Dr. Rosen in detail," Lowell said. "On day one, Secretary of State Rice tells him certain info and on day two one of the conspirators tells him the same thing or something less volatile."

Lowell's point is:

... it is impossible for Rosen and Weissman to determine what is sensitive national defense information when they are receiving the information from government officials who presumably understand national security law and therefore would not improperly disclose national defense information.

As for the specific charges against Rosen and Weissman,

The indictment against Rosen, of Silver Spring, Md., and Weissman, of Bethesda, Md., alleges that they conspired to obtain classified government reports on issues relevant to U.S. policy, including the al-Qaida terror network; the bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel; and U.S. policy in Iran.

This is the first time the law has been used to prosecute lobbyists.

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    Re: Rice Subpoenaed in AIPAC Lobbyists' Case (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 09:34:32 PM EST
    It has been noted that some of the Israeli diplomats were able to come and go as they pleased to Feith's office, undergoing none of the usual security checks. I am sure that, since everyone was so familiar with one another, that it was very hard to tell what the secrecy rules were because everything was so lax...and friendly. Just lobbyists. The crime is the defence, interesting

    Re: Rice Subpoenaed in AIPAC Lobbyists' Case (none / 0) (#2)
    by Tom Maguire on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 10:08:51 AM EST
    I found this comment from the judge to be very interesting: During Friday's hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he is considering dismissing the government's entire case because the law used to prosecute Rosen and Weissman may be unconstitutionally vague and broad and infringe on freedom of speech. And since we are talking about the Espionage Act, let's cut to Patrick Fitzgerald at his Oct 2005 press conference: FITZGERALD: OK. I think you have three questions there. I'm trying to remember them in order. I'll go backwards. And all I'll say is that if national defense information which is involved because her affiliation with the CIA, whether or not she was covert, was classified, if that was intentionally transmitted, that would violate the statute known as Section 793, which is the Espionage Act. That is a difficult statute to interpret. It's a statute you ought to carefully apply. I think there are people out there who would argue that you would never use that to prosecute the transmission of classified information, because they think that would convert that statute into what is in England the Official Secrets Act. Let me back up. The average American may not appreciate that there's no law that's specifically just says, "If you give classified information to somebody else, it is a crime." There may be an Official Secrets Act in England. There are some narrow statutes, and there is this one statute that has some flexibility in it. So there are people who should argue that you should never use that statute because it would become like the Official Secrets Act. FITZGERALD: I don't buy that theory, but I do know you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute.