High-profile Bush administration officials could be called to the witness stand if two deposed pro-Israel lobbyists have their way in a court case that is moving toward a January 2008 trial date.
Lawyers for two former lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have asked federal judge T.S. Ellis III to subpoena the highest-ranking foreign policy players in the administration, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Hadley’s deputy, Elliott Abrams, and other top officials from the White House, State Department and Pentagon.
The two Aipac lobbyists, Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen, are on trial for allegedly receiving classified information from government officials and relaying it to diplomats, journalists and other Aipac staff members. Their attorneys are seeking testimony from Rice and others in order to make the case that passing on classified information to lobbyists was routine conduct in Washington. The prosecution filed a series of motions asking that all subpoenas for government officials be dismissed.
If the subpoenas are approved by the court, the Aipac trial has the potential of turning into a major embarrassment for the Bush administration, which has made fighting leaks in the government one of its policy cornerstones. Having the most senior members of the administration testify under oath about conversations with lobbyists in regard to classified information could shatter what is left from the anti-leak posture the administration has adopted in its early years.
Last Tuesday, the judge moved closer to setting a trial date, securing January 14 – three-and-a-half years after the case first broke out – as the target for beginning the jury trial.
“We’ve got to get this done,” said Ellis in the hearing, while prodding the prosecution to speed up procedures. “This case has languished for quite a long time.”
Currently, the case’s closed-door discussions have reviewed the classified information that will be put forward. After that is completed, the proposed list of witnesses is expected to take center stage in the pretrial hearings.