Obama's AIPAC speech

It's interesting that a lot of people who follow Israel lobby issues think that Obama's speech to AIPAC was actually a tough one, once you strip away the usual "unbreakable bond" stuff. I'm less excited about this because I think in their enthusiasm that Obama is making it clear to the Lobby that they are imperiling Israel's future (and America's ability to guarantee it) they oversee the fact that the Lobby is winning the tactical fight — even if it may be at the cost of longer-term strategy. Netanyahu will once again get away with running circles around an American president. People might be growing increasingly bitter about this, but American politics is structured in such a way that it resets frequently. A new PM in Israel or a new president in the White House and we might be back, for all intents and purposes, to zero while we wait for the long game of delegitimizing AIPAC and the lobby more generally. 

Anyway, here are some of these takes.

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AIPAC, a Not-So-Benign Night Flower

Below is an article by one of the organizers of the Move Over AIPAC campaign, which will gather Americans in Washington, DC later this month to protest US foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the nefarious role played by AIPAC in ensuring aid to Israel and support for its occupation of Palestine continued unchecked.

AIPAC, a Not-So-Benign Night Flower

By Janet McMahon

One could be forgiven for thinking that the last three letters of AIPAC stand for “political action committee.” But since the American Israel Public Affairs Committee does not itself make campaign contributions to political candidates, technically it is not a PAC.  Curiously, however, the 30-odd “unaffiliated” pro-Israel PACs, most with deceptively innocuous names, all seem to give to the same candidates—almost as if there were a guiding intelligence behind their contributions. In the eyes of the Federal Election Commission, AIPAC is a “membership organization” rather than a political committee. This means that, unlike actual PACs, AIPAC is not required to file public reports on its income and expenditures.

Not for nothing, however, did Fortune magazine once name it the second most powerful lobby in Washington. So it’s easy to understand why, like a night flower that blooms in the dark and dies with the light of day, this particular organization which advances the interests of a foreign government has fought long and hard to ensure that its funding sources and expenditures are not exposed to public scrutiny.

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Rosen: AIPAC routinely traffics in USG info

More on the crux of the Steve Rosen vs. AIPAC case: Rosen says passing on US government information was routine at AIPAC. This is rather obvious for anyone who follows how the lobby operates (and its many allies in government positions). Hopefully this case will lead to another, by the government against AIPAC this time.

SpyTalk - Ex-AIPAC official got at least $670,000 from donors:

Rosen says his actions were common practice at the organization. He said his next move is to show that AIPAC, Washington’s major pro-Israeli lobbying group by far, regularly traffics in sensitive U.S. government information, especially material related to the Middle East.

“I will introduce documentary evidence that AIPAC approved of the receipt of classified information,” he said by e-mail. “Most instances of actual receipt are hard to document, because orally received information rarely comes with classified stamps on it nor records alerts that the information is classified.”

But Rosen said he would produce “statements of AIPAC employees to the FBI, internal documents, deposition statements, public statements and other evidence showing that [the] receipt of classified information by employees other than [himself] ... was condoned … for months prior to being condemned in March 2005 after threats from the prosecutors.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Lobby of Sin

This AIPAC vs. Steve Rosen story just keeps getting better and better. First there was all the admission that viewing porn is routine in AIPAC's office, one of the most surreal passages of the long deposition now available in PDF [8MB, cache]. It all starts at page 68, but some genius has made the passage into a cartoon with cute cartoon characters and put it on YouTube.

Unfortunately it's not viewable outside the US, but click on the image below for another version.

Then there was the admission Steve Rosen, five times married, used AIPAC offices for gay hookups. Well not exactly gay actually:

The Israel lobby gone wild - Israel - Salon.com

The putative purpose of the porn line of questioning was to establish that Rosen had not comported by AIPAC's standards for employees. Less clear is why AIPAC's attorney asked the married Rosen about his sexual encounters with men found on Craigslist. From Page 68:

Q If you had browsed the web for sexual encounters with gay men while at AIPAC , would that in your opinion be a violation of the computer usage policy at AIPAC?

A First, a technical correction. I actually sought married men like myself, not gay men, or I don't know what you mean by the word "gay men," but not men who were primarily living the life that's referred to as the gay community and so on.

We also find out about Rosen's reaction when he found out he would be charged with espionage:

From: AIPAC On The Brink: And Not One Word In MSM | TPMCafe

Beyond the smut, the most shocking revelation in the court documents is when Rosen reveals that immediately upon being told by the FBI that he was in serious trouble, and being warned by AIPAC's counsel to come immediately to his office and talk to no one in advance, he immediately ran to meet with the #2 at the Israeli embassy!

And also about the generosity of major donors to AIPAC and other pro-Israel and/or Jewish organizations decided they would back the man accused of espionage (and who has pretty much admitted to passing on classified information to Israeli diplomats). 

From: AIPAC Gets Down and Dirty in Pushback vs. Defamation Suit - Forward.com:

The court documents also shed light on Rosen's attempts to support himself and his family after being fired from AIPAC. The former lobbyist, as the depositions indicate, received cash gifts from several prominent Jewish philanthropists, among them some who are also major donors to AIPAC. The list includes Hollywood mogul Haim Saban, one of AIPAC's key funders, who gave Rosen a total of $100,000; Daniel Abraham, founder of the Center for Middle East Peace, who gave Rosen, his wife and three children gifts of $5,000 to $10,000; and philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, who paid off a college loan for Rosen's daughter. The list includes several other backers, including two described as "bundlers" who raised up to $200,000 for Rosen from other donors.

But of course the real scandal is how much this reveals about the way AIPAC works. The embarassment from the sexual content of the testimony is not much compared to AIPAC avoiding a full FBI investigation into the way it does business and its established practice of passing on confidential or classified information to spin for Israel. As Grant Smith writes:

As Rosen and AIPAC tussle in court over the organization’s long history of using classified national defense and economic information for the benefit of their foreign principal, Americans must begin to ask some very serious governance questions. Why won’t the mainstream media cover any aspect of the defamation suit? Shouldn’t this matter have been resolved in a bona fide criminal setting in 2009 rather than being surrendered by prosecutors under the watchful eye of Obama political appointees? Why wasn’t AIPAC itself indicted for espionage? And most important of all, why isn’t AIPAC properly registered as a foreign agent of the government with which it breaks bread (and chocolate) on Fridays?

Links for 08.14.09

Egypt: the blinkers of expertise | open Democracy News Analysis | A very interesting critique of dominant themes in the coverage of Egypt by journalists and political analysts. ✪ Iran: A Yeltsin Moment is Needed | Oh savor the irony of newspapers owned by Saudi princes calling for reform and democracy in Iran. Besides, Yeltsin was a disaster (politically, economically and in terms of Russian human development) who led directly to Putin. ✪ Hilo Hero: René Goscinny | Nothing to do with the Middle East, but this is a great blog. ✪ Fustat: Gamal Mubarak song | Mohsen al-Sayed's song - I am going to have to get the lyrics. ✪ Gary Wasserman - The AIPAC Case and Anti-Semitism - washingtonpost.com | Ludicrously poor argumentation in this piece: that there was no conviction in the Rosen-Weissman case does not mean there was no wrongdoing, and this is in such bad faith: "Of course the case hasn't been all bad for conspirators. The same year AIPAC fired its lobbyists, it used the troubles to raise a record $45 million. And having opponents exaggerate a lobby's power ends up enhancing that power." So now he's concerned that AIPAC used the incident to raise money? ✪ EGYPT: Gamal Mubarak turns to the Web | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | On Gamal's web call-in, Sharek: "All questions were filtered by NDP officials." Need I say more?
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The Larry Franklin story

Remember Larry Franklin, the former FBI official indicted for passing on state secrets to AIPAC members (he went to jail, they got off, then his sentence was reduced.) Well he's been giving a bunch of interviews lately: From that last link, the astonishing story of how Franklin and his lawyer Plato Cacheris were approached by someone who urged him to fake a suicide and disappear:
In an interview on Tuesday, June 20, Franklin described the incident for the first time. He was prohibited from naming the man who approached him. "It was in West Virginia. I was parking cars at the time. He came to see me at the Charles Town Race Track. He said, 'Let's go to lunch and talk about raising money for my defense.' "And we talked about all these rich people," Franklin continued. "But first I had to agree to a scheme... "I was going to go somewhere, and it was going to be arranged that I could occasionally meet my wife. It was supposed to be on a bridge." In Israel? "No," he said. "Florida." Who was the man who approached him? "Well, the guy was definitely a Zionist," Franklin said. "And he was a true believer. And like a lot of true believers, he's beyond good and evil. They're not subject to the laws the rest of us are." Like laws against murder. "I felt this isn't real. This is a set-up," Franklin said. "As I was saying to someone recently, I grew up on the streets of New York, and when you fake a suicide -- Well, if you're dead to everyone else, it's a lot easier to get rid of you." "He wouldn't be a witness," Cacheris said. "Did I let him know I took it that way?" Franklin added. "No. Did I take it that way? Internally, yes."
That's not lobbying. That's a criminal conspiracy.
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Harman: "I didn't need to cut some deal with AIPAC."

"I have a long friendship with AIPAC. I didn't need to cut some deal with AIPAC." So she would have accepted to put pressure on an espionage investigation not because of a political deal, but simply because of her "friendship with AIPAC." Of course you have to savor the irony of someone who backed the Bush wiretap program now complaining about being wiretapped. It still has to be seen what the grounds for her wiretap was, since it was a legal one, not part of the Bush programs. Was she being investigated about... her friendship with AIPAC?
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Prominent Democrat Rep. sought influence for AIPAC in Rosen affair

Great story from Congressional Quarterly on a secret probe into Congresswoman Jane Harman, a Democrat with longstanding interests in intelligence issues, who promised a suspected Israeli agent involved in the Steve Rosen AIPAC scandal that she would try to intervene on AIPAC's behalf:
Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington. Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript. In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win. Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.” . . . But according to the former officials familiar with the transcripts, the alleged Israeli agent asked Harman if she could use any influence she had with Gonzales, who became attorney general in 2005, to get the charges against the AIPAC officials reduced to lesser felonies. Rosen had been charged with two counts of conspiring to communicate, and commnicating national defense information to people not entitled to receive it. Weissman was charged with conspiracy. AIPAC dismissed the two in May 2005, about five months before the events here unfolded. . . . But that’s when, according to knowledgeable officials, Attorney General Gonzales intervened. According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he “needed Jane” to help support the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times. Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program He was right. On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.” Pelosi and Hastert never did get the briefing. And thanks to grateful Bush administration officials, the investigation of Harman was effectively dead. Many people want to keep it that way. . . . Harman dodged a bullet, say disgusted former officials who have pursued the AIPAC case for years. She was protected by an administration desperate for help. “It’s the deepest kind of corruption,” said a recently retired longtime national security official who was closely involved in AIPAC investigation, “which was years in the making. “It’s a story about the corruption of government — not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption.”
In other words, deep infiltration of the US political system by Israel and a supine Bush administration who could not take this on because it needed the AIPAC bunch's support.
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Links February 13th to February 15th

Links for February 13th through February 15th:

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