Why Does AIPAC Spy on Americans?

by , November 05, 2009

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Steven J. Rosen will be allowed to move ahead with his civil defamation lawsuit against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Rosen and fellow AIPAC employee Keith Weissman were indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act in 2005 along with Department of Defense Employee Col. Lawrence Franklin for passing classified national defense information.  Franklin pled guilty, but Rosen and Weissman’s case never went to trial — US attorneys gave up (PDF) after the presiding judge made a successful prosecution unlikely. 

Rosen’s 2009 civil lawsuit contends that AIPAC defamed him when its spokesperson claimed that he "did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees." Rosen’s many filings in court reveal that his fundamental case is that AIPAC commonly circulates and distributes classified US government information when it suits the organization’s purpose in lobbying for Israel.  AIPAC defamed him, he alleges, by claiming he was somehow unique. 

An FBI file declassified and released on July 31, 2009 (PDF) backs up Rosen’s assertions.  In 1984 AIPAC obtained a classified report compiled from the business secrets of US industries and associations opposed to signing a bilateral trade agreement with Israel.  The FBI found that AIPAC had "attempted to influence members of Congress with the use of a purloined copy of the ITC report and had usurped their authority."

The Washington Field Office of the FBI went on to assert that "AIPAC is a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group staffed by U.S. citizens.  WFO files contain an unsubstantiated allegation that a member of the Israeli Intelligence Service was a staff member of AIPAC."

Rosen is well on his way to claiming $20 million in damages for AIPAC’s "defamation" propelled by the court’s new ruling.  But for Americans much larger concerns linger.  Why isn’t AIPAC registering as an agent of a foreign principal if it is collaborating so closely with foreign intelligence services?  Why are these matters being litigated in civil court as a family squabble between members of the Israel lobby?  If espionage is a recurring, institutionalized feature of AIPAC, doesn’t that mitigate against its claims to be an American non-profit, working for American interests?  From the NRA to the AARP, no legitimate American nonprofit lobby has ever been found to be trafficking in so much intelligence information, or so frequently channeling it to foreign government parties and friends in the establishment media.

Newly emerging declassified facts are reminders to concerned Americans that AIPAC is not at all what it claims to be. Rosen’s lawsuit will not likely make good on his and former lobbyist Douglas Bloomfield’s implicit threats to reveal AIPAC as a stealth, unregistered foreign agent of the Israeli government.

Fortunately for Americans, that uncomfortable fact is now emerging in myriad ways, even in the midst of AIPAC’s new attempts to engineer policies that could accelerate the downfall of the US economy.

Grant F. Smith is the author of the new book Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy. He is currently director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C.

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