Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Connection to Israel Suddenly Undesirable?

Josh Gerstein, a star story breaker at the New York Sun, is reporting this morning that there appears to be a pattern involving revoking the security clearances of people who need Defense Department security clearances and have a strong connection to Israel. And they are invoking the ongoing AIPAC case as justification, the AIPAC case which itself is a controversial application of a vaguely worded law prohibiting people in possession of national defense information from passing it on to other people unauthorized to receive it. But the law has never been applied to lobbyists, only to people who work in government - so there is no direct legal precedent for this kind of prosecution.
The Pentagon is invoking the prosecution of two pro-Israel lobbyists and a Defense Department analyst for illegal use of classified information as a basis for stripping security clearances from government contractor employees who have dual citizenship in America and Israel or family members living in the Jewish state.

In at least three instances, Defense Department attorneys have used or attempted to use the case involving the former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to justify withdrawing a security clearance or denying one in the first place, according to a Virginia lawyer who closely tracks such disputes, Sheldon Cohen.

"In my personal experience, I know of at least three cases," Mr. Cohen told The New York Sun yesterday. "I assume they're raising it in every Israel case."

Asked why government lawyers were invoking the Aipac case in security clearance disputes with no known connection to the pro-Israel group, Mr. Cohen said, "The only reason to possibly use it is to implicate anybody with a connection to Israel, to imply they cannot be trusted. There is no other conceivable reason to bring it up."
Now that is a dangerous precedent to put into place.

At a hearing a few weeks ago on [a] Lockheed engineer's case, Mr. Schoen said, a government attorney sought to file the indictment of Messrs. Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman as an exhibit. The government argued that the indictment showed Israel was actively spying on America, Mr. Schoen said.

Mr. Schoen said he strenuously objected that the indictment was irrelevant to his client's case and, as a charging document, no proof of anything. "The only relevance can be is here are two Jews in Washington who are accused of spying for Israel so now any Jew is suspect for that," he said.

Mr. Schoen said the government argued that Franklin's guilty plea confirmed the validity of the charges, but the administrative judge conducting the clearance review hearing declined to admit the exhibit.

Mr. Schoen said his client, whose hearing was continued to June, was recently laid off by Lockheed.


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