AIPAC judge sets April 29 date

An April 29 trial date was set in the classified information case against two former AIPAC staffers.

Judge T.S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., told prosecutors and defense lawyers that the date he set Thursday was final, sources said.

Ellis’ office confirmed the date, at least the fifth such date since Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its Iran analyst, were indicted in August 2005. The pretrial phase has dragged on largely because of arguments over the government’s reluctance to share evidence with the defense.

Rosen and Weissman are accused under a 1917 statute that criminalizes the receipt and dissemination of classified information.

Ellis has allowed the defense to subpoena top Bush administration figures in the case, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

The judge has anticipated a trial of four to six weeks, which raises the prospect that it could overlap with AIPAC’s annual policy conference scheduled for the beginning of June.

Separately, the prosecution announced three expert witnesses it would call to show that the classified information allegedly handled by Rosen and Weissman damaged the national interest: Maj. Gen. Paul Dettmer, the Pentagon’s assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; William McNair, a CIA official; and Dale Watson, the FBI’s former executive assistant director for counterterrorism and counterintelligence, who headed the agency’s investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The defense has not announced its experts.

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