“A lobby is like a night flower; It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”
So wrote Steven Rosen, AIPAC director of foreign policy issues, in an internal organizational memo several years ago.
–quoted from Not AIPAC’s First Controversy (this article also contains lots more “dirt” about past AIPAC outrages)
Do you think that Rosen somehow knew when he made that obnoxious statement that he’d be facing the glaring light of day in the current spy scandal in which he is a suspect?
The New York Times revealed today in Pro-Israel Lobby Said to Have Been Inquiry Target that the spy inquiry that netted the alleged leak of classified documents to Israel began at least two years ago and that the target of the original inquiry was not Larry Franklin, the alleged Pentagon mole, but AIPAC itself. Condi Rice and her deputy were briefed about the investigation early in the Bush Administration.
Larry Franklin–alleged Pentagon spy (credit: Maariv International)
The article also makes clear that the two mid to low-level staffers named so far as involved in the incident may be the tip of the iceberg:
When F.B.I. agents went to Aipac’s offices on Friday, they searched the office of Steven Rosen, the organization’s director of policy issues, and copied the hard drive of his computer. Agents also met briefly and routinely with the group’s executive director, Howard Kohr, who was asked about Aipac’s structure.
This also adds piquancy to the question of who leaked this story to CBS News last week consequently destroying the chance of an espionage case being developed. Could it be someone connected to AIPAC and its supporters (even someone in Congress or the Bush Administration) or Israel itself? Intriguing questions which probably will never be answered. I hope some good investigative reporters are working on this angle as well.
I love AIPAC’s totally self-serving responses to the inquiry. What does it give as proof that it is pure as driven snow?
Aipac said it appeared that the lengthy counterintelligence investigation into the group’s activities turned up no wrongdoing because several senior Bush administration officials had met in recent years with Aipac.
Meetings between Aipac and administration and Congressional committees, including members of the intelligence committees, provided “substantial vindication of Aipac’s loyalty and trustworthiness,” the group said.
In other words, if AIPAC were under suspicion then high government officials would avoid them like the plague. That argument appears credible for about 4 nanoseconds until you realize that the FBI was certainly advising government officials (to the extent that it did reveal the investigation to anyone) to conduct business as normal with the group in order not to raise a red flag that might alert the suspects to the investigation. Then AIPAC claims that somehow these meetings “vindicate AIPAC’s loyalty and trustworthiness.” What a load of crap!
AIPAC: savvy suck ups to power (credit: Richard Lobell)
On August 27th, Howard Kohr and Bernice Manocherian (president) wrote a letter to donors and key leaders giving AIPAC a clean bill of health before they even knew the full nature of the investigation. So much for due deliberation. You’ll note in the first sentence, they characterize the investigation as almost peripheral to AIPAC:
Today, AIPAC learned that the government is investigating an employee of the Department of Defense for possible violations in handling confidential [notice that they do not use the term ‘classified’ as if to minimize the activity] information. News stations tonight reported that the investigation centers around a supposed “mole” in the DOD who allegedly disseminated internal White House policy deliberations on Iran to Israel through two AIPAC staffers.
In light of the above news article, this paragraph is shown to be completely off the mark.
Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or our employees is false and baseless. Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information the believed was secret or classified.
What strikes me as exceedingly odd about this blanket denial is that it was made on the very same day that CBS News broke the story. How could AIPAC know precisely what its employees had done in order to say they were blameless? Seems like a rush to exonerate if you ask me, and an exceedinly injudicious one at that.
You’ll also notice in that passage absolutely no mention of AIPAC’s willingness to fire or discipline any employees who may have violated either the organization’s rules or the nation’s laws. Nope, this is a hardball group and they’re gonna play this tough all the way to the end. When you toy with AIPAC, you’re playing with fire and they want the FBI to know that it will be war if they dare to pursue this investigation.
The Scotsman ran this despicable piece of disinformation which hardline Israeli cabinet minister, Natan Sharansky, fed to the CBC:
[He] says claims that Israel had a spy in the Pentagon might have stemmed from internal US intelligence rivalry.
But Natan Sharansky admitted that even if this were true, damage has been done to crucial ties between the two countries.
“I hope it’s all a mistake or misunderstanding of some kind, maybe a rivalry between different bodies,” he said, singling out “the Pentagon and the CIA”.
Talk about self-serving–with Israel facing intense scrutiny for possibly encouraging spying by U.S. government employees and citizens, the best defense seems to be a good offense, especially one that takes people off the trail completely.
My hope, which I’m relatively certain will remain unrealized, is that this terrible incident will cause some of AIPAC’s leaders to realize that the organization needs a full housecleaning involving firing of staff who either participated in, or condoned this activity. There also should be clear internal policy directives outlining what is permissible and impermissible behavior in situations like this one.
But really, everyone involved wants everything to return to status quo ante as soon as possible, which means that a similar incident will undoubtedly recur in the not too distant future because no one will have learned any lessons from this one, except that crime (or espionage) really does pay.