More on the AIPAC Indictments:
I was rather disappointed by the Ha'Aretz piece on the AIPAC indictments that David mentions below. I realize it's an opinion piece, but it seems very light on facts and very heavy on suspicion.

  As best I can tell, the only real factual claim in the piece is that "strange questions" were being asked during the investigation. The piece doesn't say who was asking the alleged strange questions, however, or two whom they were addressed. In addition, the two specific questions mentioned don't sound to me like something an FBI agent would ask (especially the second question). David suggests that the asking of such questions wouldn't surprise him because some anti-Semitic views are popular in "many 'intellectual' circles," but I don't think such circles are generally thought to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  Finally, I know one of the prosecutors in the case, and in my experience he is a consummate professional. Kevin DiGregory (listed first in this press release) was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division at the Justice Department when I was a Trial Attorney there; in layman's terms, he was my boss's boss. I worked with Kevin on a bunch of cases, and found him to be a man of tremendous integrity.

  Of course, none of this rules out some kind of funny business somewhere along the line. But until we see real evidence of that, I'm not inclined to believe that the indictments are somehow improper.
Orin, I'm not sure it's so much the indictments as the method of info-gathering.

If even one of those questions supposedly asked were asked, I think we'd have to start asking some very, very serious questions.

As it stands, the problem is that "Cui bono?" doesn't help the USG here.

The Israeli government, since Pollard, has had to fight that case and remnants of the USS Liberty every time they show their face. One would have to credit them with some severe stupidity (on levels that, frankly, seem a little unlikely) to believe this to be a Mossad espionage op. (Though I'm not ruling it out.) It goes completely against their strategic interests.

So, what's left? Well...Nothing that would seem worthy of anything but the most selective prosecurtion.

The indictment may be completely legally proper, but it gives off a nasty smell, and it looks horrible.
8.21.2005 6:47pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Last time I checked, federal prosecutors these days don't generally file indictments for no reason at all, much less out of anti-Semitism.

Anyone who wants a good summary of the situation should start here.

Of course, there are those who will equate anything critical of the Israeli government or the Likud Party with "anti-Semitism." I'd like to see them explain that to my Jewish friends, most of whom are more critical of the Israeli government than I am. No doubt they are "self-hating" Jews.
8.21.2005 7:03pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):

I don't know much about this case. But, read David's original post. I think the question is not whether saying something against Israel is a problem, but whether the investigative approach by the feds. If what is being alleged is true, it is troubling. I don't know if it is true or not. It may very well not be true. But it is odd that FBI agents are questioning Jews along the usual dual-loyalty lines. And it seems, according to that post, that even the Jews who are critical of AIPAC and Israel are upset about it. Again, don't know if it's true or not. I'm just saying that it doesn't seem like just a bunch of neo-con agitators equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
8.22.2005 1:21am
Paul doson (mail) (www):
Nice blog.I like this.
8.22.2005 3:46am
von (mail) (www):
But it is odd that FBI agents are questioning Jews along the usual dual-loyalty lines.

I'd revise that to "it would be odd if FBI agents are shown to have questioned Jews along the usual dual-loyalty lines. Like Professor Kerr, I find the Ha'Aretz piece thin on the evidence and heavy on the suspicion. Sometimes, of course, suspicion is justified -- and it may yet be here. But, until someone goes on the record with an allegation that agent X asked inappropriate question Y, there's nothing to this story but a whiff of (anonymous) unease. And a whiff is not sufficient grounds to question the integrity of a federal prosecutor who has secured indictments against two individuals on very serious charges.

Now, if someone does come forward with a credible story of being asked a "dual loyalties" question (or something like it), I'll flip-flop faster than a pancake on high heat. Very few things piss me off more than anti-Semitism (which is one reason why I don't think it wise to toss the charge around based on anonymous sources relating hearsay).*


*Actually, due to anonymity, we can't even know whether the related charges are (or are not) hearsay.
8.22.2005 10:51am
devil's advocate (mail):
I hope everyone who is commenting on this has read the indictments themselves, available here:

AIPAC indictments on FindLaw

It is hard to see people who have read these indictments being really defensive of AIPAC (as opposed to Berstein's potential criticism of FBI questioning tactics). I would say federal prosecutors are pretty damn sure classified info was given from DOD to AIPAC to Israel, and have pointed out the relevant sections of the law that forbid such behavior.

Israel is a friendly nation, ally (although without a mutual defense treaty like most of our other allies), etc., but the DOD-AIPAC-Israel Embassy/media info pipeline appears to be a no-no, legally, regardless of where your sympathies lie.

Billmon posits (pretty convincingly) that this is a brush-back pitch against (possibly widespread or increasing) coziness between US folks with security clearances and AIPAC staffers who also regularly lunch with Israel Embassy staff. DC is a small town, and you can easily imagine these folks being friends, feeling like they are working towards the same goals, seeing each other often in official (and non-official) meetings, and thus not seeing themselves as targets of laws banning passing of classified info (which are usually thought to apply to "enemies").

However, the laws apply to all nations even the UK, and we have official channels for moving classified info to other nation-states, and for those official channels to have power and meaning, they must be legally enforceable.

The intel world is murky, and there is a lot of dubious (legally) info floating around and so what these AIPAC guys did is probably not too 'outrageous' in terms of rarity, dangerousness, or bad intent. However, it sure looks illegal according to the indictments. The best 2 AIPAC defenses appear to be a) entrapment (which still means they broke the law, they just got enticed into passing along US gov't secrets) and b) selective enforcement (i.e. everybody breaks these laws all the time for allies).

There are strong counter arguments to these defenses too. a) certainly we would be much less sympathetic to cries of "entrapment" if the feds asked, oh say, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) if they wanted some classified info, and they said "yes." They would be persona non grata instantly on the Hill, whereas AIPAC has suffered little, if any, big political hits so far. so the rebuttal to the entrapment argument is: so what. you broke the law, it's called a sting operation, and it happens to law-breakers all the time. just because israel is a friend doesnt mean we break laws to help them does it?

Selective enforcement again only plays on sympathy for jews and israel. but the last group of laws to be scrapped for uneven enforcement should be espionage laws, since sometimes the gov't doesnt want to prosecute for security reasons. (if CAIR was spying, we might just want to listen in, but by indicting AIPAC, we are showing we have no interest in spying on them longterm, we don't want their info, we just want to keep ours safe).

but long story short, read the indictments. it seems to me like laws have been broken (you could argue AIPAC was justified and US interests havent been harmed, but the legal case seems pretty tight). unless the FBI and US gov't is lying publicly to get AIPAC, these guys will plea (like Larry Franklin already has) or get convicted in my view.
8.22.2005 11:41am
David E. Bernstein (mail):
Pure speculation, but given what appears to be tremendous resources put into a relatively minor case (long-term surveillance, wiretaps, sting operations, etc.), it looks to me like the investigators were hoping to crack a much bigger spy case, but, when they one didn't reveal itself, decided that they had to settle for indicting Franklin and the two AIPAC staffers for trafficking in classified info.
8.22.2005 12:41pm
Even accepting Prof. Bernstein's assertion that you can find anti-Semitism under pretty much every stone in "intellectual circles," you can find overt anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiments in pretty much every circle of American society. Rightly or wrongly, I sometimes perceive such sentiments in Prof. Bernstein's own posts.

Also, is it possible that questions of dual loyalty were addressed to individuals who have dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship? Or that the investigators were inquiring about the line of thought which at times seems to be accepted by AIPAC that any criticism of Israel's policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism, and any Jewish critic is a "self-hating Jew"? What is AIPAC's official stance on convicted spy Jonathan Pollard?

I would venture that there are many questions, analogous to those Prof. Bernstein finds objectionable, which are asked of Muslims detained, questioned, or otherwise screened as part of this nation's struggle against global extremism. Are such questions justified when addressed at Muslims and Arabs, even without a whit of individualized suspicion? If so, is the intellectual defense of such questioning more nuanced than "That's different"?
8.22.2005 1:00pm
David: Agreed.

Mahan: Not my intent. If it's true, nail the bastards.

However, even reading the indictment, it doesn't feel very strong.

At worst, it seems like they're being skewered for the normal leakage to the media and such that is Washington 101.

Also, even presuming it was all aimed for the Israelis...OK, but it was aimed at Iran. There's no indication that any of the players knew the source of any intel.

How does it hurt the United States?
8.22.2005 1:17pm
42USC1983 (mail):
I'm trying to understand the Ha'Aretz article: what's their point, and where is their evidence? Is their point that the two staffers are not guilty? Or is their point that the FBI was on a witch-hunt? Or is there point that the FBI is anti-Semitic?

Did FBI agents allegedly ask Jewish-Americans whether they had dual loyalities, or people with dual Israeli-American citizenship (I realize all Jewish people can return to live in Israel. But most American Jews would never think of leaving the United States. Thus, I'm talking about the people who choose to maintain dual citizenship, and thus, e.g., might have a passport issue from Israel, etc.)

If there were a case involving someone with dual US-UK citizenship, and FBI agents asked him whether he had dual loyalties, would that be anti-English? I don't think so, since it would be relevant to determine which country the suspect puts first. If, otoh, an FBI agent asked an American who was merely of British decent whether he had dual loyalties, this would indeed be a strange question.

So ... who was asked what and where is the evidence? I read the article three times, and I still haven't been able to figure it out.
8.22.2005 1:24pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Orin, you are an anti-semite.
8.22.2005 1:44pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
I tend to believe the authorities over people who get caught with their hands in the cookie jar and then yell "police misconduct". But there's a corrective to that bias in today's Post--
--police whose misconduct in interviews is recorded on videotape. I do think we ought to consider having all interviews recorded, then this sort of claim would be much less common.
8.22.2005 4:13pm