Rice accused of leaking defense information

A lawyer for a pro-Israel lobbyist accused of receiving sensitive national security information, said last week that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did the same thing in the same way as a low-level Pentagon official who drew a 12-year prison term.

The AP said the claims against Rice were presented as a federal judge granted a defense request to subpoena Rice and three other government officials in the trial of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. They are former lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) charged with receiving and revealing national defense information.

Their lawyers are requesting the judge dismiss the charges because the attorneys believe, among other things, that the case is an attempt to criminalize the kind of unofficial exchanges between government officials, lobbyists and the press that characterizes the usual course of business in Washington.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he is thinking of dismissing the government’s complete case because the law under which it is being prosecuted is probably unconstitutionally vague and broad and infringes on freedom of speech.

Rosen’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, claimed the testimony of Rice and the others is necessary to show that some top officials in the federal government OK’d revealing sensitive information to the two men and that the leaks may have been authorized.

Prosecutors opposed the move to depose Rice and the other officials. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory challenged Lowell’s claim. He said: “She (Rice) never gave national defense information to Mr. Rosen.”

A subpoena does not immediately require Rice or anyone to testify or give a deposition. A recipient can move to quash the subpoena. The AP said the State Department did not respond to calls for comment.

Subpoenas also were granted for David Satterfield, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq; William Burns, U.S. Ambassador to Russia and retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni.

Lowell said: “Each of these individuals have real-life dealings with the defendants in this case. They’ll explain what they told Dr. Rosen in detail. 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.”

Rosen and Weissman are under an indictment that alleges three government officials leaked sensitive and occasionally classified national defense information to the two, who later revealed what they learned to the press and to an official of the Israeli government.

One of the three officials is Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon official, who entered a plea of guilty to furnishing classified information to Rosen and Weissman, and drew a prison term of more than 12 years.

Franklin stated he was worried that the U.S. was not adequately concerned about the threat he felt Iran presented, and he hoped that by leaking information, he might eventually cause the National Security Council to take a different course of action.

The indictment against Rosen and Weissman alleges they conspired to acquire classified information on issues relevant to U.S. foreign policy, such as the al-Qaeda terror network; the bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force members; and U.S. policy in Iran.

Lowell maintains it is not possible for Rosen and Weissman to tell what information is sensitive national defense data when they are getting the material from government officials who presumably know national security law and would therefore be unlikely to disclose such information.

From the May 10-16, 2006, issue

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