Alleged secrets are the “heart of the case” against two former AIPAC staffers, a federal judge said — and that’s why the government must not keep them from public review.

In his most sweeping ruling yet in the case against Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst, Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected a government proposal to obscure evidence from the public.

Ellis, who until now has sought compromises in a series of pretrial rulings, was unequivocal: The government’s request violates not only the procedures of the Classified Information Protection Act but two articles of the U.S. Constitution.

The plan “closes significant parts of this trial and fails to pass constitutional muster,” Ellis ruled Monday in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

The government’s plan would have sworn jurors to secrecy; referred to countries and individuals mentioned in the document in codes that would change from reference to reference; and kept documents discussed at trial out of public view.

The crux of the charges against Rosen and Weissman is that they allegedly shared information on Iran with Israeli diplomats, journalists and others. The defense strategy will be to argue that much of the information was in the public domain.

The government’s proposal was “novel,” “creative” and “imaginative,” Ellis said, but it would mean that “what the public does not see or hear is the heart of this case.”

That would violate two constitutional amendments, he said: the sixth, protecting a defendant’s right to a public trial, and the first, protecting the public’s right to be apprised of judicial proceedings.


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