The Washington Times reported today that the FBI believed that former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen was a spy for Israel when it got a warrant to search his office in 2004. The evidence? Rosen was allegedly taking notes during meetings with U.S. officials and then passing the information along to other officials. So basically, he was being a lobbyist. Which makes sense, since that was his job.
But that logic didn’t seem to faze the FBI, which used the information to portray Rosen as an Israeli agent in order to embark on what sounds like a fishing expedition. “Based upon my training and experience as an counterintelligence investigator, I believe Rosen is collecting U.S. government sensitive and classified information, not only as part of his employment at AIPAC, but as an agent of [Israel],” FBI agent Eric Lurie wrote in the affidavit for the warrant.
Of course, FBI officials never actually found any evidence of spying during their searches, and Rosen was never charged with espionage.
“The FBI followed me around for five years, they searched my office and searched my home, and they never found any classified documents, because there were none to find,” Rosen told the Times.
Which raises a troubling question — why was the FBI so eager to go after an AIPAC official for activities that seem typical for the job description of a lobbyist?
The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told the Times that some segments of the intelligence community are still highly suspicious of Israeli intelligence-gathering, even decades after the convicted of Jonathan Pollard.
“I believe this goes back to this notion that there was a second Pollard and it was bigger than Pollard,” Foxman said. “I would rather they pursue this, come up with nothing, rather than not be given the opportunity to pursue it and saying, ‘if only they let us, we would find something.'”
I agree with Foxman that the officials should have the opportunity to carry on these searches, because it may help debunk this illogical suspicion. But I also find it concerning that the FBI can harass someone for years based on flimsy evidence simply because of a connection to Israel.