News & Politics

“This Is the FBI—Can We Talk?”

Keith Weissman and Steven Rosen Are PhDs and Middle East Experts Who Did Some Lobbying. They Thought They Were Doing What Washington Insiders Always Do.

Thomas O’Donnell didn’t reveal his job when he phoned Keith Weissman in 2004 and got the policy analyst’s wife. He says he didn’t want to scare her. When Weissman returned the call and found out O’Donnell was an FBI agent, his first reaction was to attempt a joke: “What did I do?” “I’m sure you didn’t do anything,” O’Donnell told him. He wanted to meet that day, for five or ten minutes, and get Weissman’s help on something “that I can’t talk about on the telephone.”

Weissman was calling from his cell phone, standing outside a New Balance shoe store near Boston. He turned down the invitation to meet with O’Donnell: “That’s a little too cryptic for me. I’m on vacation with my family.”

O’Donnell was in Boston, and he offered an explanation for why he was there. He said he had been sent for the Democratic National Convention “and some other matters.” The political convention, where the FBI kept watch for violent demonstrators, had wrapped up a few days earlier at Boston’s Fleet Center.

Weissman agreed to meet O’Donnell in Washington six days later and “have a cup of coffee and [find] a quiet place and we can talk.”

When Weissman pressed O’Donnell, seeking to find out what the FBI was after, he was told, according to an FBI transcript, that the bureau wanted to tap “your expertise with some different countries . . . that you’ve studied and written on and done some research. It’s that kind of stuff.”

That was plausible. Weissman, then 52, was a senior analyst for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobbying group, where he had worked since 1993. His job combined research and efforts to influence US government policy. He had a good grasp of the political and cultural currents of the Middle East, having studied in Iran and Egypt and earned a PhD in Middle East history at the University of Chicago.

Weissman’s wife, Deborah, a lawyer and former investigator with the Securities and Exchange Commission, became anxious when told of the FBI meeting. She urged her husband to take someone with him to the appointment, such as AIPAC general counsel Philip Friedman. Her instincts were sound. O’Donnell’s assurance to Weissman that “I’m sure you didn’t do anything” was a feint.

O’Donnell worked at the FBI’s Washington Field Office at Fourth and F streets, Northwest. The city-block-size WFO, as it’s known, serves as the nerve center of the government’s low-key but expansive efforts to track leaks of secrets to foreign countries. Its targets aren’t just America’s enemies; allies and friends hunger after each other’s closely held information.

Russian espionage continues unabated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. An American agent in Paris was caught trying to steal French trade secrets. Despite its disclaimers, Israel is reported to be on the lookout for any information that will help preserve a military edge over regional enemies and expand its exports of weaponry and technology. The United States, in turn, is alert for signs that Israel is selling military hardware to China.

“There has been, for some time, serious concern about Israeli espionage in the US,” says Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA veteran who also held intelligence posts at the White House and Pentagon. The FBI, he adds, “puts Israel up alongside China as espionage threats.”

In 2000, CBS’s 60 Minutes broadcast the disguised voice of an unnamed CIA official saying, “We believe that there have been numerous documented instances in which the Israelis have successfully recruited US persons to spy for them.”

O’Donnell’s call prompted Weissman to try to reach his boss, Steven Rosen, AIPAC’s director of foreign-policy issues. Rosen, then 62, was a former academic. A political scientist with a PhD from Syracuse, he had taught at Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and Australian National University and cowrote a textbook, The Logic of International Relations. He joined AIPAC in 1982 after four years with the Rand Corporation, where he held a top-secret security clearance to work on projects for the CIA. While at Rand, he became acquainted with a promising young graduate student, Condoleezza Rice, who was working there temporarily.

Weissman didn’t want to call Steven Rosen’s cell phone; he thought his boss should be sitting down when he heard about the FBI call. As it turned out, Rosen also had gotten a message from an FBI agent who wanted to talk to him about a “field investigation.”

When the two AIPAC officials speculated over the phone about what the FBI was after, they turned up one possibility: The investigators’ interest had been piqued by information the lobbyists had supplied to the Washington Post two weeks earlier. Still, Rosen was reluctant to act defensive, which would suggest that their organization was involved in “nefarious things.”

Rosen returned the FBI’s call and spoke with agent Catherine Hanna. “Is this a criminal matter?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

That afternoon, Hanna and partner Robert Porath went to Rosen’s AIPAC office on First Street near Union Station. The agents told Rosen that the FBI was updating the security clearance of Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin and was interviewing his contacts as part of a background investigation. Franklin was the Pentagon desk officer for Iran, a subject of deep interest to Rosen. The FBI had turned up some possible security issues, the agents said, including the fact that Franklin may have stored classified documents at his house.

According to the agents’ notes, Rosen said he had met with Franklin about three times, but the two had never discussed classified information, nor had Franklin shared any with him. Asking for classified information, Rosen told the agents, was “a quick way to ruin relationships.”

Weissman kept his appointment the next week with O’Donnell and another agent, William McDermott, at the Sun Spot Cafe, adjacent to the lobby of AIPAC’s office building. Over a beverage and cigarette, Weissman described having met with Franklin four or five times over the previous two years to talk about non-Arab Middle East countries, primarily Iran, according to a court document. The agents asked him if Franklin had ever disclosed classified information to him or anyone else he knew, and they noted his answer: “No.”

The two AIPAC officials’ hunch that a phone call to the Post had found its way onto the FBI’s radar was correct. They had shared what law-enforcement officials considered “national-defense information” with Post reporter Glenn Kessler about stepped-up Iranian activity in Iraq. The government would later charge that Rosen described it to Kessler as “agency information” from an “American intelligence source.”

But that call to the Post was a small piece of the story. And contrary to what agent Hanna told Rosen, this was “a criminal matter.” By the time the agents approached Rosen and Weissman, they were nearing the final stages of an investigation into leaks of classified information that would wreck the two men’s careers and throw one of Washington’s most powerful lobby groups on the defensive.

The FBI probe included hours of wiretaps approved by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington and surveillance of meetings at Washington-area restaurants. It also included a search of AIPAC’s offices in 2002 that appears to have been surreptitiously conducted, because the offices’ entrance is monitored 24 hours a day and no one appeared with a search warrant around that time.

Federal prosecutors theorized that Rosen and Weissman had engaged in a five-year conspiracy to cultivate government sources with the aim of obtaining sensitive “national-defense information,” which they would pass on to colleagues at AIPAC, Israeli officials, and journalists. By August 2005, prosecutors persuaded a federal grand jury in Alexandria that the two AIPAC officials were not only assiduous in collecting classified information but almost flamboyant in sharing it with others.

“When it comes to classified information, there is a clear line in the law,” then–US attorney Paul McNulty said when the indictments were announced in August 2005. “Today’s charges are about crossing that line.”

Rosen, Weissman, and Franklin were accused under a rarely used section of the World War I–era Espionage Act.

A conviction could land Weissman, a father of three, in prison for up to ten years and Rosen, also a father of three who faces an additional charge, for up to 20. But the potential impact extends beyond these two men and AIPAC. It could also send a chill through the ranks of Washington lobbyists and consultants for foreign governments.

To influence the US government or even react knowledgeably to US actions, many countries think an embassy staffed with diplomats isn’t enough. They’re willing to pay large fees to hire Americans with contacts at high levels and an understanding of how policymakers think. Often these are ex-government officials. While barred from lobbying former colleagues immediately upon leaving office, they nonetheless bring valuable experience and eventually get inside for meetings and to open doors for foreign visitors.

For instance, when India was negotiating its 2006 civilian nuclear agreement with the Bush administration—fraught with strategic implications for both countries—it enlisted the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers for advice. The firm had previously signed on the former US ambassador to New Delhi, Robert Blackwill. Although Blackwill wasn’t involved in getting the firm’s India contract, he has since been a prominent advocate for a new US/India partnership.

Robert Litt, a defense lawyer who has represented people caught up in leak investigations, sees the indictment of Rosen and Weissman as part of a broad crackdown on leaks by the Bush administration: “People formerly in the intelligence community are looking at [the AIPAC case] and the leak investigations with great trepidation.”

But a conviction is by no means a sure thing, due in part to an aggressive three-year fight by the defense team, led by Abbe Lowell for Rosen and by John Nassikas III for Weissman. The lawyers’ no-stone-unturned litigation fills a foot-thick file of motions and rebuttals in US District Court in Alexandria. A series of rulings by the resolutely evenhanded presiding judge, T.S. Ellis III, has knocked some of the stuffing out of the government’s case and required the Bush administration to put some of its top officials on the witness stand.

In fact, what the US attorney called the “clear line in the law” isn’t clear at all, particularly where the question of intent comes into play. When the case comes to trial in late April, assistant US attorneys Kevin DiGregory and William N. Hammerstrom Jr. will have to meet a big burden of proof. Showing that Rosen and Weissman obtained, talked about, and relayed sensitive national-defense information won’t be enough. Prosecutors will have to prove that the two men did so knowing that if the information were revealed, it would damage US national security and also knowing that disclosing it was illegal.

Convincing a jury that Rosen and Weissman possessed this criminal state of mind won’t be easy. To counter the charge, defense lawyers intend to lay bare the largely hidden world of back-channel Washington diplomacy. They will try to show that senior officials regularly gave AIPAC officials sensitive information with the full expectation that it would be passed along to Israelis and others. In that way, they will contend that AIPAC played a role in developing US foreign policy.

Over prosecutors’ objections, defendants won court approval to subpoena 15 current and former top administration officials. Their names read like the lineup for a crisis meeting in the White House Situation Room during President Bush’s first term: national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice (now secretary of State); current national-security adviser Stephen Hadley; Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of State; William Burns, US ambassador to Russia; Marc Grossman, former undersecretary of State for political affairs; David Satterfield, now the State Department’s coordinator for Iraq; Elliott Abrams, deputy national-security adviser; Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of Defense; and Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of Defense.

Judge Ellis didn’t okay these subpoenas lightly. He did so after being persuaded that each of these officials would be able to testify about specific meetings or conversations—either with the two defendants or with others at AIPAC—that dealt with information comparable in sensitivity to the kind Rosen and Weissman allegedly obtained and passed on.

Ellis also knew that the subpoenas might derail the case. If the administration balks at allowing sworn testimony by senior officials about sensitive conversations, the case against Rosen and Weissman could be dismissed.

The line between information that can and can’t get passed is blurred by the amount of officially sanctioned daily intelligence sharing between the United States and its allies. Such exchanges are particularly intense between the United States and Israel, which regularly trade information and assessments on terrorism and other perceived threats.

“It’s absurd for anyone to think that the Israelis have to enlist people to spy,” says Sandra Charles, a former Pentagon and National Security Council official who consults in Washington for Persian Gulf Arab governments. “They can go to the highest levels of the administration if they want to find out what the thinking is on US policy.”

To James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, the case casts a shadow not only over AIPAC but also over other groups, such as his, that engage in what he calls “ethnic lobbying.” But he says he doesn’t have any sympathy for Rosen and Weissman. Like AIPAC lobbyists, Zogby has met with senior American policymakers and been asked to convey signals to and from foreign officials—in his case, Arab leaders. “[US officials] would say to me, ‘You’re going to the Gulf—ask this,’ or ‘If we say this to [Yasser] Arafat, what will he say?’ ”

“Everybody in this business knows the difference” between that kind of discreet communication and what Rosen and Weissman are charged with, Zogby claims. “Their choice was to pass on information they knew was sensitive to Israel.”

Just how sensitive will be disputed at the trial. Rosen and Weissman were accused of transferring not classified documents, only information they had been given orally. The trial itself will include a mass of classified material that the government has reluctantly decided to divulge. Ellis ordered that it be stripped of markings such as “top secret” or “no forn” (no foreign nationals), which could give the jury an impression that the information was closely held when in fact it might not have been.

If civilian lobbyists such as Rosen and Weissman can be punished for obtaining and discussing classified information, what about journalists and researchers who uncover data the government prefers to keep hidden? McNulty contended in 2005 that “those not authorized to receive classified information must resist the temptation to acquire it.”

Press-freedom advocates view the case as a potential blow to newsgathering, coming on top of court and prosecutorial pressure on reporters to divulge confidential sources. Think tanks and interest groups that specialize in collecting and analyzing information on national security are worried as well.

John Pike, who directs, an organization skilled at unearthing national-security data from open sources, says the indictment raises this question: “How many degrees of separation can remove you from the obligation to protect information that was originally classified?”

Just when the FBI opened its AIPAC probe isn’t clear.

“It started a long time before I got there,” says David Szady, a veteran counterespionage officer and leak investigator who in 2001 was named to the new FBI post of national counterintelligence executive. He declines to comment further.

Why the probe began remains a mystery. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the case. Speculation centers on 1990s suspicion of an Israeli “mole” in the national-security apparatus, ongoing surveillance of Israelis that turned up contacts with AIPAC, or a general law-enforcement search for leakers. The question of why AIPAC lobbyists were singled out prompted darker theories, summed up in a headline on a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Dorothy Rabinowitz: first they came for the jews.

Justice Department lawyers knew that a probe of AIPAC would be controversial. A senior participant at the time says: “It was obvious to me and to many others that an investigation of this nature was going to receive a lot of attention because of the significance of the organization involved.”

Regularly ranked as one of the most effective lobbying organizations in Washington, AIPAC strives to forge closer political, strategic, and military ties between the United States and Israel. The group combines grassroots organizing, fundraisers capable of pulling in tens of millions of dollars a year, and a skilled Washington staff that finds willing legislative sponsors among friends in both parties. When preparing a major arms sale to Arab allies, the Pentagon will often brief AIPAC specialists before the deal is put before Congress.

“For anyone who deals with the Middle East,” consultant Sandra Charles says, “AIPAC is one of those realities you learn to work with.”

Each year, AIPAC draws thousands from across the country to its Washington convention to hear speeches by the President, Cabinet secretaries, top congressional leaders, and Israeli politicians. Then AIPAC members move on to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress. AIPAC has consistently lined up a large congressional majority in support of military and economic aid for Israel and cooperation between the two countries in a variety of spheres from missile defense to homeland security. The aid package for Israel tends to be the engine that gets the whole US foreign-aid budget through Congress.

While nonpartisan and not directly involved in political campaigns, AIPAC keeps its membership of more than 100,000 apprised of congressional votes important to Israel. This kind of scrutiny can have an intimidating effect on lawmakers because it has the potential to influence where AIPAC members send their campaign contributions. Critics have contended that AIPAC should be required to register as a political-action committee. But neither the courts nor the Federal Election Commission has forced the issue.

Other detractors contend that because it lobbies for aid and policies that benefit Israel, AIPAC ought to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. But unlike organizations and firms that represent foreign interests and governments, AIPAC doesn’t get money from and is not contractually linked to Israel.

Crucial to AIPAC’s influence on US policy is its ability to keep Congress and executive-branch policymakers informed of actual or potential threats to Israel and alerted to dangerous political trends in surrounding Middle East countries. This is where Rosen and Weissman came in.

Rosen played a big role in expanding the organization’s influence beyond Congress into the executive branch, meeting behind the scenes with well-placed officials and the journalists who cover them. Generally hawkish but nonideological, Rosen specialized in hard-nosed, sometimes prescient analysis of the major actors in the Middle East and Washington. A father of two sons, ages 25 and 8, and a 22-year-old daughter, Rosen has been married and divorced six times. Five years ago, he reunited with his first wife after 39 years apart.

The indictment shows that investigators recorded conversations among Rosen, Weissman, and Israeli officials starting in April 1999, when Rosen allegedly disclosed to an Israeli diplomat that he had “picked up an extremely sensitive piece of intelligence.” He described the information as code-word protected, meaning that access to it was highly restricted. Two months later, Weissman allegedly told the same diplomat that he knew of a “secret classified FBI report” on the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

In December 2000, both men met over lunch with Kenneth Pollack, then a Persian Gulf specialist on the National Security Council staff under President Bill Clinton. Afterward, Rosen allegedly talked to a reporter about then-classified US strategy options against Iraq. In January 2002, Rosen met with David Satterfield, a senior State Department Middle East official, about the sharing of intelligence between the United States and Israel following the Karine A episode, in which the Israelis seized a large Palestinian arms shipment. The episode damaged the US relationship with Yasser Arafat. The government alleges that, in a memo to other AIPAC staffers, Rosen included classified information he had picked up.

The lobbyists’ contacts with Lawrence Franklin developed in 2002 when the defense analyst joined the Pentagon’s newly formed Office of Special Plans under Douglas Feith.

Rosen had been watching with growing alarm the signs that Tehran’s cleric-dominated regime was seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, compounding the danger posed by Iran’s support for terrorist and guerrilla movements in Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip and its export of an extremist ideology. He shared some of the frustration of Israeli leaders, who, from former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin onward, saw Iran as a threat to the Jewish state’s existence and pressed for greater attention from Washington. As confrontation loomed between the United States and Iraq, Rosen worried that the United States would be pulled into a quagmire, unable to respond to what he considered a graver threat from Iran.

From his midlevel perch at the Pentagon, Franklin chafed at what he saw as a failure by the Bush administration to come to grips with the Iranian danger. He reached out to Rosen and Weissman, hoping they would bring their influence to bear on the NSC and, if possible, help him secure a job at the White House. This would put him, in Rosen’s words, “by the elbow of the President.” Rosen, according to the indictment, promised to “do what I can.”

At the time that the AIPAC men and Franklin were first in touch with each other, getting tough on Iran was not a White House priority. Administration policy was fixated on ousting Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. As Bush worked to build domestic and international support for regime change in Iraq, the administration expected to enlist help from Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists of the Iranian regime.

Five days after Rosen called the Pentagon seeking to make contact with an Iran expert and got Franklin’s name, the Bush administration hosted a get-together of Iraqi exiles in Washington. It included a representative of the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution. Ahmad Chalabi, who led the Iraqi National Congress and was the Pentagon’s chief ally among Iraqi exiles, would later take up residence in the Iranian capital in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq.

According to letters in the case file, in September 2002, the month after Rosen and Franklin first spoke, the FBI conducted a search at AIPAC headquarters. What it produced, if anything, remains under seal. An AIPAC spokesman says the organization wasn’t aware of any search at that time. To cultivate Franklin, Weissman at one point took him to an Orioles game in Baltimore. Franklin, who was also an Air Force Reserve officer, held not only a top-secret security clearance but also one entitling him to SCI, “sensitive compartmented information,” the kind kept at a secure site and granted on a need-to-know basis to a limited number of individuals.

During a series of meetings in 2003, Franklin spilled several pieces of allegedly classified information, from policy options against Iran to specific intelligence about attacks on US forces in Iraq. On a couple of occasions, Rosen or Weissman allegedly passed along what he’d learned to Israeli diplomats or journalists.

Franklin, likewise, relayed sensitive information to an Israeli diplomat and to the media. On May 21, 2004, he disclosed what prosecutors described as “top secret/SCI” information to journalists from CBS about what prosecutors would later cryptically claim concerned “meetings involving two Middle East officials.”

That evening, CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on evidence that onetime Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi “personally gave Iranian intelligence officers information so sensitive that if revealed it could, quote, ‘get Americans killed.’ ” Later in the broadcast, she reported that the information Chalabi had allegedly passed was so sensitive that US officials “at the highest levels” had prevailed on CBS not to broadcast it.

Five weeks later, the FBI closed in on Franklin. Armed with a warrant, agents searched his workspace and turned up a June 25, 2003, classified document. Franklin admitted he had given information derived from the document to Rosen and Weissman. Agents then searched his house in Kearneysville, West Virginia, and found more than 80 classified documents he had brought home illegally over three decades.

Franklin was vulnerable. He had a record of security breaches for taking documents home. Lacking substantial assets and with a wife afflicted with crippling rheumatoid arthritis, Franklin did not hire a lawyer; instead, he agreed to cooperate with the FBI.

Authorities enlisted Franklin in a sting: In July 2004, he attempted to arrange meetings with Rosen and Weissman, armed with the kind of information that clearly would be of interest to Israel. At one point, he requested an urgent meeting with Weissman, telling him lives were in danger. When the two met, Franklin, who was wired, warned him that Iran had discovered the presence of Israeli agents in northern Iraq. The information was highly classified “agency stuff,” and Weissman could get in trouble for having it, Franklin told him.

Weissman in turn told that to Rosen, and the two contacted Naor Gilon, a political officer at the Israeli Embassy. Rosen and Weissman also called Glenn Kessler at the Post to report an increased threat to US soldiers in Iraq from Iranian-backed militias.

Franklin also helped the FBI with a counterintelligence probe of Chalabi, who has denied divulging any US secrets. Among those he called was Francis Brooke, a Chalabi aide in Washington. According to Brooke, Franklin also called active members of the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi’s political party.

“He was asking questions about Ahmad Chalabi and my dealings with Iranian officials,” Brooke says. He recalls that Franklin said, “There’s a lot of stuff going on. You should tell me the straight story. I’m in contact with journalists, and I could spin it for you.”

Says Brooke: “I thought he was off his rocker.”

The Chalabi probe foundered, but the AIPAC investigation gained momentum. The calls to Naor Gilon and Kessler provided what prosecutors considered new evidence that Rosen and Weissman had violated a section of the 1917 Espionage Act, barring the possession and transfer of “national-defense information” by anyone not authorized to have it.

Three weeks after their meeting with Weissman at the Sun Spot Cafe, FBI agents knocked on Rosen’s door in Silver Spring shortly before 8 am. They told Rosen they knew Franklin had provided classified information to an Israeli official. What would Rosen say, they asked him, if the Israeli official told Franklin that the information had already been supplied to him by Rosen? According to the agents’ report, “Rosen said he had done nothing wrong.”

Later, agents confronted Weissman outside his home in Bethesda. They played him a recording of the July conversation between Weissman and Franklin. “Look,” Weissman told them, “I was told by people at the office not to talk to you.”

That afternoon, the FBI searched Rosen’s office at AIPAC headquarters, this time presenting a search warrant. CNN cameras filmed the agents entering the building. Apparently tipped off before the raid, CBS called AIPAC with questions.

Initially, AIPAC circled the wagons around its two officials, defending them in public statements, assigning them legal counsel, and paying the legal fees. Rosen and Weissman both received bonuses at the end of 2004. But the investigation continued. Although AIPAC was assured in December that it was not a target, four senior AIPAC staffers were called to testify before a federal grand jury in Alexandria.

According to defense documents, in February 2005, US attorney Paul McNulty—who later became deputy attorney general—met with AIPAC’s executive director and AIPAC lawyers and urged them to cooperate. AIPAC’s counsel called lawyers for Rosen and Weissman the next day, telling them that McNulty “would like to end it with minimal damage to AIPAC. He is fighting with the FBI to limit the investigation to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman and to avoid expanding it.” Prosecutors disclosed to AIPAC lawyers some evidence they had obtained under a secret warrant.

Rosen and Weissman were fired. AIPAC also halted payment of their legal fees. At the time, the Justice Department viewed an organization’s payment of legal fees for employees under investigation as a sign of a lack of cooperation with the probe. An AIPAC spokesman, Patrick Dorton, denied that the organization had acted under government pressure: “Any suggestion that AIPAC acted at the government’s behest is completely false. Our decisions on dismissal and legal fees were made independently, based on the facts and our commitment to doing the right thing in a very difficult situation.”

One source close to AIPAC noted that Weissman and Rosen had refused to waive their rights to sue the organization. Recently, Dorton repeated a statement he had made at the time of the indictment: “Rosen and Weissman were dismissed because they engaged in conduct that was not part of their jobs and because this conduct did not comport with the standards that AIPAC expects and requires of its employees.”

Franklin, despite helping with the sting, was indicted along with the two AIPAC lobbyists. He pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in October 2005 and drew a 12-year prison sentence. Judge Ellis held the sentence in abeyance until the AIPAC case is over. The attorney Franklin acquired late in the probe, Plato Cacheris, expects his client to be called as a witness. He hopes, as a result of Franklin’s cooperation with the prosecution, that his sentence will be reduced to a “minimal” term.

The FBI’s investigation didn’t end with the conspiracy indictments of Rosen and Weissman in August 2005, a year after Weissman got that initial phone call in Boston. One reason may have been a gap in the government’s case. The two men were charged with oral receipt and transmission of national-defense information. There is no evidence that classified documents ever exchanged hands.

The next year, the FBI and one of the prosecutors approached the family of the late muckraking columnist Jack Anderson, seeking access to his archive. Anderson’s son Kevin told a congressional panel that he was told they “wanted access to Dad’s documents to see if either Rosen’s or Weissman’s fingerprints were on any government documents.” Anderson’s widow initially consented to the request, but the family collectively decided to refuse.

When the trial gets under way, parts of it will be closed to the public. Judge Ellis has allowed the introduction of some classified evidence that only the jurors will see or hear in full. He also has allowed the defense to probe potential jurors for indications of anti-Jewish bias.

AIPAC has regained its place as one of Washington’s premier lobbying groups and is building a new headquarters. Within the last few months, AIPAC agreed to pay Rosen’s and Weissman’s legal fees, which have climbed into the millions of dollars. No explanation was given, although the decision came after Ellis ruled that any government pressure on AIPAC was “inappropriate and fraught with the risk of constitutional harm.”

Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman have all failed to find permanent employment while the case is pending. Franklin works at odd jobs, his lawyer says. Rosen received financial help from friends and has done part-time consulting. Weissman spends a good deal of time with his children—his daughter is studying Arabic at college; one son is a high-school senior, and another is in middle school—walking his two golden retrievers and pondering book projects, including one on rock ’n’ roll.