By Shmuel Herzfeld
National Vice-President, Coalition of Jewish Concerns
More than 125 rabbis from across the denominations of Judaism have signed a letter that will be sent Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The letter asks the Attorney General to review the recent prosecution of two former employees of AIPAC, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. Even though the charges against these two men were recently dropped, the letter raises serious questions about the manner in which the Department of Justice conducted itself in this case. It is necessary to press for answers to these questions, since there has already been enormous harm caused by this prosecution, both personally to Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman and to the Jewish community as a whole. If these questions remain unanswered, more damage may occur in the future. The full letter is below:
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder,
On behalf of the undersigned leaders of the Jewish community, we applaud your decision to dismiss the unjustified prosecution of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. The case represents an enormous miscarriage of justice, and should never have been brought in the first place. It caused unimaginable harm to the reputations of two loyal Americans, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, and was used by some to call into question the loyalty of the Jewish community in the United States. Words simply cannot describe the pain that this prosecution has caused. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you appoint a special counsel or a group within your office to investigate the matter and to report to you on (a) how this miscarriage of justice was allowed to occur and (b) recommendations on how to ensure that a similar unjust prosecution can be avoided in the future.
As you know, in the 90+ years since the Espionage Act of 1917 was first adopted not a single prosecution had ever been brought by the government against a non-government employee – until the prosecution of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman. That fact is even more significant when you consider that during those 90+ years, this country went through a series of “red” scares that included the Palmer raids, the McCarthy hearings, the blacklisting of Americans, and the more recent concerns about Chinese espionage.
Moreover, this unprecedented prosecution apparently involved the first use of the statute against any person – including a government employee – for orally transmitting classified information. In every other prosecution to date, the government employee who was charged had transferred tangible information, such as documents or photographs, to a foreign government. In short, the government never demonstrated to the Court nor explained to the public why this case and these facts in particular merited prosecution under a never-before used federal law.
And if all of this was not enough, the prosecutors also decided to charge Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman for re-transferring the classified information that they received to members of the press. This charge, of course, raised serious First Amendment issues and resulted in numerous amicus filings with the District Court. Indeed, it was precisely a concern about this type of prosecution that led President Clinton in November 2000 to veto the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001,” which would have added a new criminal provision permitting prosecution of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. In rejecting the legislation, President Clinton rightly quoted Justice Brandeis’s admonition that “those who won our independence believed . . . that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.”
Accordingly, while this case was not authorized by you or your team of lawyers, we believe this prosecution raises a series of questions that must be reviewed by you personally. Among those questions are:
Why was a criminal investigation opened up into the conduct of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman in the first place? Were appropriate internal guidelines in place and followed regarding this investigation and prosecution, and were they each properly supervised?
Who approved the sting operation that appealed to the highest motives of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, namely that people would die if they did not act? Are the current Justice Department guidelines on undercover operations appropriate and sufficient for these types of cases against non-government officials, or should they be supplemented?
Who approved the decision to prosecute this case under a never before used law?
Should prosecutions of this type, which are very rare and, as here, can cause
widespread collateral damage beyond those charged, only be brought with the approval of the Attorney General?
Did anti-Semitism and/or anti-Israel sentiments play any role in the handling of this matter? We request the Civil Rights Division be included in this review.
Did any Justice Department employees have any advance knowledge or input, or play any role in the decision by AIPAC to fire these two employees, which also led to a termination of their health insurance? As you know, the Justice Department has been seriously admonished by Federal Judges and Members of Congress for similar conduct in other criminal cases.
Was the recent leak to the press of a classified recording involving Congresswoman Jane Harman influenced in any way by the Department of Justice’s decision to dismiss the case against Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, and is that leak being investigated?
These issues should be reviewed because the handling of this matter has, in the opinion of many, placed a cloud of suspicion on the loyalties of Jews in the United States and raised questions about their patriotism. One way to dispel that concern is to carefully review what happened at all stages in the handling of this matter.
As Attorney General, you have taken the bold and righteous decision to dismiss this case and to ensure that justice was done. We respectfully request that the Justice Department must take the next step to ensure that this type of misconduct does not happen again.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, Beth David Synagogue, West Hartford, Connecticut
Rabbi Yosef Adler, Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Teaneck, N.J.
Rabbi David Albert, Vice President, Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, Miami, Florida
Rabbi Howard Alpert, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Congregation Shearith Israel, New York City, New York
Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Director of Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals; Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, New York City
Rabbi Nissan Antine, Beth Sholom Congregation, Potomac, Maryland
Rabbi Hal Axelrod, Silver Spring, Maryland
Rabbi Marvin I. Bash, Arlington, Virginia.
Rabbi Aaron Benson, East Brunswick Jewish Center, East Brunswick, New Jersey
Rabbi Edward C. Bernstein, Congregation Shaarey Tikvah, Beachwood, Ohio
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, Shaare Torah, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Rabbi Herbert W. Bomzer, President Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York
Rabbi Pynchas Brener, Chief Rabbi of Union Israelita de Caracas, Caracas, Venezuela
Rabbi Ner Bresler, Brooklyn New York
Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa, Ontario
Rabbi Chaim Casper, North Miami Beach, Florida
Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen, Director, American University Hillel, Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Mitchell R. Cohen, Milwaukee,Wisconsin
Rabbi Menashe East, Kehillat Ahavat Yisrael, San Diego, California
Rabbi Michael Cohen, Young Israel of Oak Park, Michigan
Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkley, California
Rabbi Moshe Edelman, Director of Leadership Development, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York, New York
Rabbi Robert J Eisen, Congregation Anshei Israel, Tucson, Arizona
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, CEO, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Joshua Feigelson, Evanston, Illinois
Rabbi Joel Finkelstein, Congregation Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth, Memphis, Tennessee
Rabbi Ilan Feldman, congregation Beth Jacob, Atlanta, Georgia
Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, Rabbi, Kehilat Kesher: Tenafly, New Jersey
Rabbi Aaron Frank, Baltimore, Maryland
Rabbi Cary A. Friedman, Passaic, New Jersey
Rav Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Beth Tzedec Congregation, Toronto, Ontario
Rabbi Barry Gelman, United Orthodox Synagogues, Houston, Texas
Rabbi Menachem Genack, Englewood, New Jersey
Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg, Congregation Sons of Israel, Woodmere, New York
Rabbi Marc Gitler, East Denver Orthodox Synagogue, Denver, Colorado
Rabbi Steve Golden, JCC on the Palisades, Tenafly, New Jersey
Rabbi Steven M. Graber, Temple Hillel, North Woodmere, New York
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Past President Jewish Life Network (Ret.), Bronx, New York
Rabbi Kenneth Greene, Freehold Jewish Center, Freehold, New Jersey
Rabbi Susan Grossman, Congregation Beth Shalom, Columbia Maryland
Rabbi Ira Grussgott, Congregation Ezras Israel of West Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois
Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman, Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Ezra Hanon, Seacrest Nursing Home & Shoreview Nursing Home, Brooklyn, New York
Rabbi Jacob Herber, Congregation Beth Israel, Glendale, Wisconsin
Rabbi Jason Herman, West Side Jewish Center, New York City
Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld, Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh, Portland, Maine
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, National Vice-President, Coalition of Jewish Concerns–Amcha; Rabbi, Ohev Sholom–The National Synagogue, Washington D.C.
Rabbi Jonathan Hirsch, Hollywood, Florida
Rabbi Danny Horwitz, Greenfield Chapel of Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Houston, Texas
Rabbi Fred Hyman, Kodimoh Synagogue, Springfield, MA
Rabbi Isaac Jeret, Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay, Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Rabbi Davidi Jonas, Bronx, New York
Rabbi David Kalb, Minyan Yavneh, New York City, New York
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, Congregation Bnai David Judea, Los Angeles, California
Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, New York City, New York
Rabbi Hillel Katzir, Temple Shalom Synagogue-Center, Auburn, Maine
Rabbi Michael Katzman, New York City, New York
Rabbi Shaya Kilimnick, Congregation Beth Sholom, Rochester, New York
Rabbi Moshe Kinderlehrer, Teaneck, New Jersey
Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Congregation Eitz Chaim, Monroe, New York
Rabbi Manes Kogan, Hillcrest Jewish Center, Queens, New York
Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold, Beth El Synagogue, East Windsor, New Jersey
Rabbi David Kosak
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Atlanta, Georgia
Rabbi David Kuperman, President, Action for Havila
Rabbi Chaim Landau, Ner Tamid Congregation, Baltimore, Maryland
Rabbi Eric M. Lankin, Highland Park, New Jersey
Rabbi Jonah Layman, Shaare Tefila Congregation, Silver Spring/Olney, Maryland
Rabbi Barton G. Lee, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona
Rabbi Aryeh A. Leifert, Eleanor Kolitz Academy, San Antonio, Texas
Rabbi Yamin Levy, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, New York City, New York
Rabbi Dov Linzer, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, New York City, New York.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, Chicago, Illinois
Rabbi Arnold B. Marans, The Sephardic Temple, Cedarhurst, New York
Rabbi Chaim Marder, Hebrew Institute of White Plains, White Plains, New York
Rabbi Baruch Melman, Temple Israel of the Poconos, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Rabbi Avis D. Miller, President, Open Dor Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Jonathan Miller, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, Alabama
Rabbi Etan Mintz, Charlottesville, Virginia
Rabbi Moshe Morduchovitz, Dean, Yeshiva of the West Side, New York City, New York
Rabbi John Moscowitz, Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, Ontario
Rabbi Herbert G. Panitch, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Israel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Rabbi Jonathan Pearl, New York
Rabbi Eliot H. Pearlson, Temple Menorah Miami Beach, Florida
Rabbi Yossi Pollak, Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk, Connecticut
Rabbi Gary Pokras, Temple Judea of Bucks County, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Director, New York Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Elozor Preil, Bergenfield, New Jersey
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Teaneck, New Jersey
Rabbi Jeffrey Rappoport, Jewish Center of Oak Hills, Queens, New York
Rabbi David Rebibo, Beth Joseph Congregation, Phoenix, Arizona
Rabbi Marvin Richardson, Jericho Jewish Center, Jericho, New York
Rabbi Shaul Robinson, Lincoln Square Synagogue, New York City, New York
Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt, Congregation Schara Tzedeck, Vancouver, Canada
Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein, Central Synagogue, New York City, New York
Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger, Ocala, Florida
Rabbi William D. Rudolph, Bethesda Maryland
Rabbi Michael Safra, Rockville, Maryland
Rabbi Martin Sanders, New York City, New York
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, University Chaplain, New York University, New York City, New York
Rabbi Perry Schafler, Long Beach, New York
Rabbi Adam Scheier, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Westmount, Quebec
Rabbi Joel Schwab, Temple Sinai, Middletown, New York
Rabbi Marvin Schwab, Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Rabbi Allen Schwartz, Congregation Ohab Zedek, New York City, New York
Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz, Temple B’nai Sholom, Rockville Centre, New York
Rabbi Hyim Shafner, Bais Abraham Congregation, St. Louis, Missouri
Rabbi Ari Segal, Robert M. Beren Academy, Houston, Texas
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, UCLA, Los Angeles, California
Rabbi Jay C. Shoulson, Congregation Sons of Israel, Astoria, New York
Rabbi Marion Shulevitz, New York City, New York
Rabbi Eric R. Slaton, Beth Israel Synagogue, Hamilton, Ohio
Rabbi Dan Smokler, New York City, New York
Rabbi Henry A. Sosland, New City Jewish Center, New City, N. Y.
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, Toronto, Ontario
Rabbi Saul Strosberg, Congregation Sherith Israel, Nashville, Tennessee
Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, Congregation Beth Shalom, Red Bank, New Jersey
Rabbi Adam Starr, Young Israel of Toco Hills Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
Rabbi Brian Strauss, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Houston, Texas
Rabbi Ari Sunshine, Olney, Maryland
Rabbi Joel Tessler, Beth Sholom Congregation, Potomac Maryland
Rabbi Etan Tokayer, Kingsway Jewish Center, Brooklyn New York
Rabbi Uri Topolosky, Congregation Beth Israel of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
Rabbi Reuven Travis, Rambam Atlanta Day School, Atlanta, Georgia
Rabbi Harlan J. Wechsler, Congregation Or Zarua, New York City, New York
Rabbi Avi Weiss, President, Coalition of Jewish Concerns–Amcha; Rabbi, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York
Rabbi Steven Weil, Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills , California, CEO Orthodox Union
Rabbi Tzvi H. Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Orthodox Union
Rabbi David A. Willig, Queens, New York
Rabbi Dan S. (Ze’ev) Wiko, Dutchess County, New York
Rabbi Harvey J. Winokur, Temple Kehillat Chaim, Roswell, Georgia
Rabbi Raphael Wizman, Young Israel of Commack, Commack, New York
Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Baltimore, Maryland
Rabbi Alan Yuter, Bnai Israel of Baltimore, Maryland
Rabbi Joshua Yuter, The Stanton Street Shul, New York City, New York.
Rabbi Dr. Doug Zelden, Congregation Or Menorah (Orthodox), Chicago, Illinois
Rabbi David S. Zlatin, The Beachwood Kehillah, Beachwood Ohio
Rabbi Leonard C. Zucker, Golden Lakes Temple, West Palm Beach Florida, President of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis