A federal judge has set a trial date early next year for two former pro-Israel lobbyists under indictment for trafficking in classified information.

At a hearing Tuesday, Judge Thomas Ellis III said the ex-staffers for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, will go on trial beginning January 14, 2008, at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

Messrs. Rosen and Weissman have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial has been repeatedly delayed as the prosecution and defense quarrel over what classified information can be disclosed as part of the case.

The two men were fired from their jobs at Aipac in March 2005 after federal investigators told the group that the men deliberately obtained classified information and relayed it to journalists and Israeli diplomats. The two were indicted in August of that year for violating the Espionage Act. However, they were not charged with spying per se.

Advocates for the press have warned that similar charges of obtaining and disclosing classified information could be brought against numerous journalists who report on national security matters.

Judge Ellis has indicated that he is not troubled by that prospect. However, he rejected a bid by prosecutors to impose secrecy on the trial by using codes to refer to people or countries referred to in evidence and by playing surveillance tapes solely for jurors, attorneys, and court personnel.


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