Groups want answers in ex-AIPAC staffers’ case

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Jewish leaders want answers as to why two former AIPAC officials were targeted for a federal investigation.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, questioned “the justification” for the case and the decision to bring charges under a law that had barely been used in more than 90 years.

“You don’t want to reopen the whole case, but you have to look at the damage that was done,” Hoenlein said.

On Friday, the U.S. government asked for a dismissal of the indictments against Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst. The two had been awaiting trial ever since an FBI raid in August 2004 on AIPAC offices resulted in charges, based on a 1917 statute, that they had obtained and relayed information relating to Iran’s threat against Israel.

The request for dismissal noted the "diminished likelihood the government" would prevail. In the past three years, the government case has suffered numerous setbacks in pre-trial court rulings.

Jewish communal leaders also criticized the waves of government leaks that they say were aimed at discrediting the defendants and other pro-Israel figures. Hoenlein pointed to last week’s revelation of the wiretap of U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), saying it was just another example of the unfair “besmirching” of those who were involved.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said information that was revealed in the pre-trial process has “raised grave concerns that a serious injustice and abuse of power was involved in this case.”

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, vice president of AMCHA-The Coalition for Jewish Concerns, says his organization will file a Freedom of Information Act on Monday in an effort to “get some answers” to questions such as “who approved the investigation.”

“The government should not be able to get away with this,” he said.

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