Now that Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman have been let off the hook by the government, which dropped the espionage charge against them, it’s appropriate to take stock. Were they innocent? I do not believe so. The government surveilled them for several years and there were multiple acts of betrayal in which documents were transferred. They were guilty as hell. While doubters reading this will wonder at the source of my conviction, suffice it to say that it is not based solely on my own resources or research, but rather on deeper knowledge.
So what happened? It became obvious to the Justice Department that through disadvantageous rulings by the judge, that the government would have to reveal much of the means by which it caught the accused spies. Intelligence sources and secrets would be brought into open court. Plans, methodologies and technical means would be compromised.
While Steve Rosen wasn’t a small fish, the government is aware that Israeli espionage is a huge undertaking in this country and that there will be more Rosens in the future. Israel’s clandestine activity here needed to be monitored in case a larger fry than Rosen was still out there.
Think of Jonathan Pollard, one of the most prolific spies in U.S. history. Think of Stephen Bryen, a Senate aide who passed to Israeli intelligence photos of a Saudi airbase. His prosecution was stopped by a deputy attorney general just as Rosen’s was (though for political, rather than intelligence reasons).
There are Rosens, Pollards and Bryens out there now and will be in future. Of that you can be sure. Just as rust never sleeps (to quote Neil Young), neither does the Mossad.
What concerns me though is that aside from Pollard, many spies for Israel, if caught, are either not prosecuted or the charges are dropped. A good part of the reason is that the Israeli government and pro-Israel forces exert massive influence both in public and behind the scenes to free their spies. This is precisely what Jane Harman agreed to do (though she claims she welched and didn’t do what she promised) on Rosen’s behalf. Malcolm Hoenlein was another communal leader who went on the warpath on Rosen’s behalf, labeling the FBI as riddled with anti-Semites eager to burn Jews via the dual loyalty canard.
Pro-Israel forces even managed to gain the support of a leading expert on government secrecy like Steve Aftergood, who criticized the prosecution. In attacking the case, Aftergood seemed more concerned with protecting whistleblowers than prosecuting spies.
My concern is that the U.S. intelligence community and prosecutors bringing such cases do not have support in the Jewish community, especially the pro-peace community. Without such support, it is that much easier for a judge to find sympathy for the alleged “victim.” It becomes that much easier to throw up an impossibly high hurdle for prosecution.
No one is saying that those accused of spying for Israel do not deserve a fair trial. But neither am I saying that they deserve a cakewalk. If the Israel lobby is going to mount a campaign on behalf of ‘their’ spooks, those who believe that Israel’s interests are not necessarily the same as our own should be capable of mounting a similar campaign to see that justice is done not just for the individual, but for our country as well. I wish that the next time such a prosecution happens that the government would do a better job of communicating its case not just to the judge, but to those who might support it in our community.