May 8, 2009
The acquittal of former AIPAC operatives Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman on espionage is yet another victory for the Israel Lobby. As happens so often these days, stories that are much discussed in some sectors of the Internet are pretty much ignored in the MSM. The New York Times buried it and the LA Times ignored it entirely. It was missing from network news and from cable TV talk shows of all political leanings.
Lobbies, it is said, live in the dark and die in the light of day. And here the media cooperates with a bit of self-censorship.
One of the major points made by the defense was the following argument:
Highlighting the curious underpinnings of this prosecution, the high-level government officials with whom Rosen and Weissman regularly met and who, according to the Indictment, illegally disclosed classified NDI [national defense information], have not — with but one exception — been charged criminally. Indeed, one of the disclosing officials has since received, not charges or reprimands, but a series of promotions to one of the highest, most sensitive positions in the government.
The “one exception” is former Pentagon official Lawrence A. Franklin, who has been sentenced to a 12-year prison term. The two other high-level government officials were given coded names in the original indictment, but they are now known to be Kenneth Pollack and David Satterfield. The indictment indicates that both Pollack and Satterfield gave classified information to Rosen and/or Weissman.
Despite the wording of the indictment, Pollack claims that he “could not imagine having relayed classified information.” I guess we are supposed to take his word for it.
The indictment also mentions two Department of Defense employees who put Rosen in contact with Franklin. Neither of these has ever been named, but it would be interesting to find out their names as well. One of these employees was at a breakfast meeting with Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman when Franklin provided the AIPAC employees with classified information.
Rather than being indicted as Franklin was, life has been good for Satterfield (and Pollack; see below). Satterfield has been promoted — three times: to Principal Deputy in the Department of State’s Mideast Bureau, then to Deputy Chief of Mission with the rank of Ambassador in Iraq and most recently to Principal Adviser to the Secretary of State on Iraq.
All of these are sensitive assignments and all of them relate to the area of AIPAC’s main concern. AIPAC is doubtless quite happy that there are high-level US government officials who are stationed in just the right areas and who cooperate in giving them classified information.
The point of the defense, of course, is that since Satterfield and Pollack have never been indicted, Rosen and Weissman were not doing anything out of the ordinary. That is, they were talking with government officials who were not seen as doing anything wrong because nothing was done to them. And if the government officials weren’t doing anything wrong, then how could the defendants possibly be doing anything wrong? It’s all part of business as usual in Washington.
This is an excellent argument. The government’s prosecution seems to have been capricious at best. But the question for the rest of us is: Why weren’t Pollack and Satterfield indicted? And why was Lawrence Franklin targeted as the fall guy while two high-level Jewish officials — officials that the government claims gave Rosen and Weissman classified information — were not charged at all?
From the standpoint of the government, it should make much more sense to go after the ethnic Jews who are providing classified information to AIPAC than to go after a hapless non-Jew who seems to have been seeking to advance his career by doing what his Jewish peers are doing — providing information to AIPAC. What better way to ingratiate oneself into the power structure?
Indeed, in the indictment, Franklin asks Rosen “to put in a good word for him” for a position on the National Security Council (NSC), and Rosen replies “I’ll do what I can.” Quite clearly, Franklin was seeking to advance his career in the national security establishment by cooperating with AIPAC. What a statement on the power of AIPAC in the eyes of people trying to get ahead in Washington!
On the other hand, during his trial Franklin portrayed himself as seeking to get information to people on the NSC. He had nothing but the highest motives.
But this implies that Franklin thought that it was reasonable for him to believe that by giving information to Rosen and Weissman he could influence the NSC. This shows that Franklin viewed AIPAC as having extraordinary access to the NSC — more access than he had as an employee of the Defense Department. Obviously, this does nothing to diminish one's estimate of the power of AIPAC in the US government.
But the big point is that if the government really wanted to end the funneling of classified information to AIPAC and to Israel, it would go after the ethnic Jews in the government who are providing the classified information. The “passionate attachment” of ethnic Jews to Israel is the stuff of legend and is an obvious motivation that any reasonable person concerned about security issues should be aware of and try to eliminate.
The question is important because Pollack and Satterfield are exactly the types of people whose presence at high levels of the US government illustrate the power of the Israel Lobby and its ability to get information from the highest levels of the US government.
Indeed, there is now a long list of Jewish patriots who have been credibly charged with spying for Israel. Jonathan Pollard and Ben-Ami Kadish were convicted or pled guilty, but there is also a top drawer list of neoconservatives in that category who were not convicted: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Stephen Bryen, Douglas Feith, and Michael Ledeen.
Satterfield has kept a fairly low profile in terms of his associations, but Pollack is a classic Jewish activist who has gone back and forth between high positions in the government and high positions in pro-Israel activist organizations. In particular, he was working for the NSC at the time when he was mentioned in the indictment of Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman — presumably indicating that Rosen and Weissman did indeed have a close contact at the NSC and would be able to put in a good word for the ambitious Mr. Franklin.
At the end of the Clinton administration, Pollack moved seamlessly to hardline pro-Israel advocacy as Director or Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute. In this role he has been a strong advocate for the war in Iraq. Whereas the Iraq War was definitely a project of the neocons, Pollack is a Democrat who used his influence to successfully promote the war among liberals. New York Times columnist Bill Keller noted “Kenneth Pollack, the Clinton National Security Council expert whose argument for invading Iraq is surely the most influential book of this season, has provided intellectual cover for every liberal who finds himself inclining toward war but uneasy about Mr. Bush.”
And liberal columnist Matthew Yglesias pointed to Pollack’s influence among liberals in creating a bi-partisan agreement in favor of the war. He describes himself as among those “who read Pollack's celebrated 2002 book, 'The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,' and became convinced as a result that the United States needed to, well, invade Iraq in order to dismantle Saddam Hussein's advanced nuclear weapons program (the one he didn't actually have).”
Pollack therefore is a good example of how the Israel Lobby plays both sides of the aisle. The neocons take over the Republican Party, while the liberals are swayed by the likes of Pollack.
As noted in my previous column, dual citizen Saban’s love for Israel knows no bounds. Indeed, one aspect of Saban's commitment is that he seems to be involved in yet another AIPAC scandal as the person who asked Rep. Jane Harman to use her influence to get the charges against Rosen and Weissman reduced.
Saban and Pollack obviously have a lot in common. Like Pollack, Saban is a Democrat. Saban is a huge donor to the Democratic Party — he gave over $10,000,000 in 2001–2002. But he’s a liberal who loves war if it’s in Israel’s interests, and he got the right man in Pollack to head his center.
Finally, Judge T. S. Ellis III forced the government to have a very high standard for conviction. The government had to prove that Rosen and Weissman “had a bad faith reason to believe the disclosures could be used to the injury of the United States or to the aid of a foreign nation; and … intended that such injury to the United States or aid to a foreign nation occur.”
This is a very high standard and would make it pretty much impossible to convict anyone of spying on behalf of Israel. Indeed, the first line of defense for neocons against accusations of dual loyalty is to claim that they sincerely believe that are advocating policies that are in the interests of the United States. As I noted elsewhere,
One need not be a professional psychologist to realize that sincere beliefs can be influenced in subtle ways by one’s ethnic commitments. The neocons may not be consciously disloyal, but there is every reason to suppose that their beliefs are tailor-made to conform to their perception of ethnic interests. And in the case of the neocons ... there is overwhelming evidence for deep ethnic commitments among neoconservative Jews.
Jewish organizations have every reason to celebrate this victory. Not only were the AIPAC operatives acquitted, the Jewish activists inside the US government who are alleged to have given AIPAC classified information were not even indicted.
True to form, their reaction is to take full advantage of their victory. Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations hinted darkly that the investigation was motivated by anti-Semitism: “Hoenlein questioned ‘the justification’ for the case and the decision to bring charges under a law that had barely been used in more than 90 years.” As one activist rabbi noted, “We are very, very happy this has been dismissed,” But “for us this is not over, this is the beginning.” “The government should not be able to get away with this.”
The effects of this are obvious. US government personnel will be very reluctant to mount such investigations in the future. They will be intimidated — afraid to investigate any espionage on behalf of Israel because of effects on their own career.
The result will be a repeat of what happened to the State Department. In the bad old days (from the standpoint of the organized Jewish community), the State Department, and especially the Near East Desk, was run by people who were not sympathetic to Israel. All that has changed as a result of a major push by Jewish activists to assume positions in the State Department and to shift policy their way.
Jewish activists may not be able to influence the security establishment to quite the same extent. But they surely will use the results of the current case to do what they can to make the people who were responsible for this case pay a very high price. And they may well succeed.
Kevin MacDonald is a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.