WASHINGTON – Two former employees of a pro-Israel lobbying organization were indicted Thursday on charges they conspired to obtain and disclose classified U.S. defense information over a five-year period.
An indictment unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., names Steven Rosen (search), formerly the director of foreign policy issues for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Keith Weissman (search), the organization's former senior Iran analyst.
The five-count indictment also spells out in greater detail the government's case against Pentagon analyst Lawrence A. Franklin (search), who already was facing charges he leaked classified military information to an Israeli official and the AIPAC employees.
Rosen and Weissman disclosed sensitive information as far back as 1999 on a variety of topics that included terrorist activities in Central Asia, the bombing of the Khobar Towers (search) in Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda (search) and U.S. policy in Iran, the indictment said. Among their contacts were foreign government officials and reporters, the indictment said.
Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman denied the accusations. "The charges in the indictment announced today are entirely unjustified," said Abbe Lowell, Rosen's attorney. John Nassikas, Weissman's lawyer, said, "We are disappointed that the government has decided to pursue these charges, which Mr. Weissman strongly denies."
Franklin's relationship with the men dates to 2003, the indictment said. Franklin pleaded innocent to the charges when his indictment was first unsealed in June.
Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, said the men apparently were motivated by a desire to advance their personal agendas and careers by trading on prized information. "The facts alleged today tell a story of individuals who put their own interests and their own views of foreign policy ahead of American national security," McNulty said at a news conference.
Although the indictment refers to other U.S. officials who gave Rosen classified materials, McNulty said no other charges are planned, but noted the investigation continues.
Plato Cacheris, Franklin's lawyer, said he had been expecting additional charges. He said Franklin cooperated with investigators for three months in 2004.
The FBI's long-running investigation has focused on whether Franklin, of Kearneysville, W.Va., passed classified U.S. material on Iran to AIPAC, the influential main pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington, and whether that group in turn passed it on to Israel. Both AIPAC and Israel deny any wrongdoing. Franklin has pleaded innocent.
AIPAC fired Rosen and Weissman in April.
Rosen, quoted in The New Yorker magazine last month, denied knowingly receiving classified information. A spokesman for his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, declined comment Thursday. John Nassikas, Weissman's lawyer, did not immediately provide comment.