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US spy inquiry pair fired

Julian Borger in Washington
Friday April 22, 2005
The Guardian

An influential pro-Israel lobby group in Washington has fired two senior officials targeted by an FBI inquiry into the leaking of US secrets to Israel.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) sacked its policy director, Steven Rosen, and its Iran specialist, Keith Weissman, after receiving information from investigators looking into how classified information about US policy on Iran was obtained by Israel's government.

Lawyers for the pair issued a written denial of wrongdoing, saying: "Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman have not violated any US law or AIPAC policy. Contrary to press reports, they have never solicited, received or passed on any classified documents."

However, AIPAC, which had vigorously defended its employees against spying allegations since they surfaced last year, quickly distanced itself from their statement.

"The action AIPAC has taken was done in consultation with counsel after careful consideration of recently learned information and the conduct AIPAC expects of its employees," said a spokesman.

The dismissals have come as the federal espionage investigation is reported to be reaching a conclusion. According to US press reports, it focuses on whether a Pentagon official, Lawrence Franklin, provided a draft of a presidential directive on Iran policy and other information to AIPAC, and whether that information was then passed to Israel.

Mr Franklin is an Iran expert who worked for the under-secretary of defence, Douglas Feith, a prominent neo-conservative who is leaving his job this summer. Mr Franklin is still employed by the defence department pending the outcome of the investigation, but no longer in a classified job or in the Pentagon. Neither he nor the AIPAC officials have been charged with any crime.

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