On August 4, 2005, Keith Weissman and Steven J. Rosen, two employees of AIPAC, were indicted for receiving classified information and then passing it along to reporters and to the officials of a foreign government, namely, the state of Israel. Up until a few weeks ago, their trial was set to commence this coming Monday, June 4. It has now been delayed, for the umpteenth time, to an unspecified date this fall.
The Sixth Amendment to our Constitution states that in “all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” But Weissman and Rosen have been dangling in legal limbo for nearly two years, and an end to their ordeal is not yet in sight. Much, if not almost all, of the delay can be laid at the feet of the prosecutors, who repeatedly have been caught unprepared by decisions of the court.
In the most recent instance, T.S. Ellis III, one of the most thoughtful and scholarly judges sitting on the federal bench, rejected the prosecution’s proposal for handling classified evidence during the trial, which would have required all participants in the courtroom (save the public) to talk about it using a complex code. Among other criticisms leveled by Ellis was that this “would make it virtually impossible for defendants to conduct effective cross-examination of witnesses.”
On Monday, an international conference will open in Prague, headed jointly by the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, former President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel, and former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. The Conference on Democracy and Security will play host to reformers, dissidents, and democracy activists from every quarter of the world, as well as political leaders including President George W. Bush. Its purpose is to provide a voice for global democracy—something COMMENTARY has been doing for decades. On the eve of the conference, we offer a number of items from our archives on the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights worldwide.
Defending and Advancing Freedom: A Symposium
Life, Liberty, Property
Richard Pipes – March 1999
Democracy for Everyone?
Peter L. Berger – September 1983
Human Rights and American Foreign Policy: A Symposium
Dictatorships and Double Standards
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick – November 1979
• When I was an undergraduate music student, there were two pieces of New York-related classical-music trivia guaranteed to reduce the most unruly class to stunned (if short-lived) silence. One was that Leonard Bernstein was listed in the Manhattan phone book, and the other was that Lorenzo Da Ponte was buried in Queens. Bernstein has since acquired a new number, but Da Ponte’s bones can still be found in a common grave within the city limits of New York. From time to time this fact comes to the attention of a local newspaper editor, who thereupon commissions a feature story about the complicated life of the man who wrote the libretti for Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte.
I humbly confess that until last week, everything I knew about Lorenzo Da Ponte could easily have been crammed into the compass of a shortish feature story. Now, however, I know enough to fill a book. The book in question is Rodney Bolt’s The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s Poet, Casanova’s Friend, and Italian Opera’s Impresario in America, a fully sourced biography that is nonetheless intended for the edification of a non-scholarly audience. Bolt is a director-turned-travel writer who has a lively style, a good eye for detail, and a fabulous story to tell, all of which add up to an exceedingly readable book.
Italy’s defense minister Arturo Parisi, interviewed last week on a morning show about Hizballah’s activity in southern Lebanon, dismissed any concern about its arms smuggling. “I am not aware [of any arms smuggling],” he said, “at least not to the extent that it requires a change of behavior by the UN.”
Parisi did recognize Lebanon’s difficult situation—given the ongoing battle between the Lebanese army and Fatah-al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, near the Syrian border, it would be hard to deny it. But he stated that the real trouble in the region stems from “actors coming from abroad and present in the Palestinian camps, whose links lead both to Sunnis and Shi’as”—and not, apparently, to Hizballah.