Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
November 16, 2010 - 1:00am

AIPAC officials acknowledged in depositions that the organization only recently adopted a stated policy forbidding the receipt of classified information. The depositions also produced claims regarding the viewing of pornographic materials on office computers.

The depositions are part of a brief filed earlier this month in the District of Columbia Superior Court by lawyers for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee seeking the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit by Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign policy chief.

Rosen was fired in March 2005, seven months after the FBI raided AIPAC offices on Aug. 27, 2004 seeking evidence in a federal case that would charge Rosen and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s top Iran analyst, with dealing in classified information.

The firing came after federal law enforcement officials replayed a wiretapped conversation for AIPAC lawyer Nathan Lewin with Rosen, Weissman and Glenn Kessler, a Washington Post correspondent, in which Weissman and Rosen relay information to Kessler about a purported Iranian plan to attack Americans and Israelis in Iraq.

Weissman in the conversation wondered if relaying the information would get him in trouble, and Rosen countered that the United States does not have an “Official Secrets Act,” the British law that criminalizes the receipt of classified information by civilians.

After hearing the conversation, Lewin recommended firing Rosen and Weissman.

“What happened in the conversation was that these two AIPAC employees were trying to persuade a Washington Post reporter that they had information that was so hot that he should print; that they could go to jail as a result of printing it, but they are disclosing it to him notwithstanding that,” Lewin said. “And my feeling was that was something that, as I said in the letter [recommending the firings], AIPAC could not condone, much as I felt that they had not committed a crime.”

Lewin instructed an outside publicist, Patrick Dorton, to say that Rosen and Weissman were fired because “their conduct did not comport with what AIPAC would expect of its employees,” he recalled in the deposition.

That claim is the crux of Rosen’s defamation lawsuit, which he filed in March 2009, just weeks before the government dropped its criminal case.

In the deposition, a lawyer for Rosen pressed Lewin if he knew of relevant AIPAC standards.

“I didn’t,” he acknowledged. “It wasn't a question of knowing what the standards were. I just knew, in terms of my general experience and my feeling in terms of a Washington lawyer, that if it become public that AIPAC's employees were trying to peddle a story based on classified information, AIPAC would not be able to withstand the criticism that would follow the fact that those employees were retained.”

In the same filing Richard Fishman, AIPAC’s managing director, also acknowledged in a deposition the lack of a stated policy. He noted that AIPAC within the last two years has made explicit a policy against receiving classified information.

When Rosen was employed, Fishman said, it was a “common sense understanding,” although he did not elaborate how such an understanding was conveyed.

Dorton in his deposition said Rosen was fired also for not being candid with AIPAC officials about his conversations with the FBI prior to the raid. AIPAC’s lawyers pressed Rosen in his deposition about his decision to contact an Israeli diplomat when he learned that the FBI was planning a raid -- even before he spoke to Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director.

Much of the material in Rosen’s deposition had to do with his viewing pornography on an office computer. Rosen countered that he knew Kohr and others at AIPAC also viewed pornography on AIPAC computers.

Additionally, AIPAC’s lawyers insisted that Rosen list the AIPAC donors whose donations helped sustain him between the time he was fired and the time the government dropped the case, in May 2009. Rosen has been at pains not to identify the donors in order not to create tensions between them and AIPAC.

Depositions in the filing are heavily redacted, with AIPAC excerpting only those portions that would seemingly support its motion to dismiss.

Rosen, who is suing AIPAC for $20 million, said Tuesday that his lawyers would file a counter motion by Dec. 2 with fuller excerpts and more material.

“We're going to show in our brief most of the reasons they're giving in this thing played no role in my firing,” he said, noting as an example that his bosses were made aware of the pornography on his hard drive months before he was fired.

In a statement, Dorton said AIPAC was confident it would prevail.

“As is demonstrated in detail in the pleadings that AIPAC has filed, this is a frivolous lawsuit with no merit,” Dorton said in a statement. “AIPAC has made it clear during the course of this litigation that it disagrees with Mr. Rosen's characterization of events relevant to the litigation.”


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017