Israeli lobby group dismissed two senior employees
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Apr. 21, 2005 9:57 | Updated Apr. 21, 2005 22:33
AIPAC fires two senior employees
By JPOST.COM STAFF
The pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC has dismissed two senior employees who are being investigated by the FBI for allegedly relaying classified information to Israel, after it became aware of new information in the case.
In a move that may be a blow for the organization, AIPAC dismissed its long-time policy director, Steven Rosen, and its senior Iran analyst, Keith Weissman, earlier this week, the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported.
The move is a significant turnaround from AIPAC's adamant defense of the two men when they were first accused after the FBI raided AIPAC offices in August 2004 and then again in December.
"The action that AIPAC has taken was done in consultation with counsel after careful consideration of recently learned information and the conduct AIPAC expects of its employees," a source close to the organization said.
After the FBI accused the two senior AIPAC employees last December of mishandling classified information and possibly spying against the United States, The Jerusalem Post learned that the AIPAC had been set up by the FBI.
The FBI planted pentagon analyst Larry Franklin to draw Rosen and Weissman, who already knew him, into accepting what he described to them as "classified" information.
Then, one of the AIPAC pair told diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington about the "classified" information, which claimed Iranians were monitoring and planning to kidnap and kill Israelis operating in the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.
The recently dismissed employees continued to insist on their innocence. Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman issued the following statement Wednesday: "Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman have not violated any US law or AIPAC policy. Contrary to press accounts, they have never solicited, received or passed on any classified documents. They carried out their job responsibilities solely to serve AIPAC s goal of strengthening the US-Israel relationship."
This was the first on-the-record statement to come from the lawyers, Abbe Lowell and John Nassikas; in the past, all such statements have come from AIPAC and its lawyers. It also was the first statement to suggest that Weissman and Rosen had been accused of violating AIPAC policy.
Two sources close to Rosen and Weissman said the staffers have been negotiating severance packages at least since last week.
They have been on paid leave since January.