AIPAC Workers Indicted for Leaks

Federal authorities unseal an indictment against two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The two are charged in connection with the disclosure of classified Pentagon information. Authorities accuse Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin of leaking the information.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The government indicted two more people today in the case of Larry Franklin. He is the former defense analyst accused of leaking classified information. According to the indictments, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former employees of a pro-Israeli lobbying group, were allegedly part of the plot. The charges were no surprise, but as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, they provide new details about how the three men allegedly conspired to influence US foreign policy.

LARRY ABRAMSON reporting:

Larry Franklin is an expert on Iran who worked for the Defense Department until he fell under suspicion and lost his security clearance last year. Earlier this year, the government charged Franklin with six counts of leaking classified information and with mishandling government secrets. Up until today, the indictment referred to two unnamed co-conspirators who worked for a lobbying organization in Washington. They had allegedly received classified information about the Middle East from Franklin. Today, US attorney Paul McNulty confirmed that those two men are Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who once worked for AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Mr. PAUL McNULTY (US Attorney): Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman repeatedly sought and received sensitive information, both classified and unclassified, and then passed it on to others in order to advance their policy agenda and professional standing.

ABRAMSON: The indictment details a series of exchanges in which Rosen and Weissman received, then passed along government secrets. April 13th, 1999: Rosen disclosed to an unnamed foreign official national defense information concerning terrorist activities in Central Asia. June 11th, 1999: Weissman talks with the same official about a classified FBI report on the Khobar Towers bombing; that terrorist attack killed 19 US servicemen stationed in Saudi Arabia in 1996. McNulty says some of this information allegedly came from unnamed government officials, but much of it came from Larry Franklin.

Mr. McNULTY: Larry Franklin repeatedly transferred classified information to others not entitled to receive it, including Rosen and Weissman, also for the purpose of advancing his own policy agenda and his career.

ABRAMSON: The indictment does not spell out just what that policy agenda was about, but Larry Franklin was known to be a hard-liner in favor of a tougher policy against Iran. Some of the information Franklin allegedly leaked concerned Iran's nuclear program; some dealt with reports that Iran planned to target US or Israeli forces in Iraq. Rosen and Weissman may have been interested in the information because they could use it to push for a tougher US policy against Iran.

The government has also charged that Larry Franklin passed information to an unnamed foreign official. He's believed to work for the Israeli Embassy in Washington. These new charges show that Franklin, Rosen and Weissman had regular discussions about the Middle East and about al-Qaeda with a variety of contacts. None of them were allowed to hear or see classified information, according to US attorney Paul McNulty.

Mr. McNULTY: The facts alleged in this indictment tell a story of individuals who put their own interests and views of American foreign policy ahead of America's national security.

ABRAMSON: McNulty says the investigation is ongoing, but he would not say whether there might be additional indictments aimed perhaps at the foreign officials or the US officials allegedly involved. Steve Rosen's attorney would not comment on tape, but he released a statement saying the indictment is `entirely unjustified.' He says he expects that a trial will show that this prosecution `represents a misguided attempt to criminalize the public's right to participate in the political process.'

Keith Weissman's attorney also denies the charges. Larry Franklin has already pleaded not guilty, and could face trial as early as next month. Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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