Steven Rosen is a former RAND analyst and an AIPAC lobbyist who is credited with expanding the lobby group's influence from the congress to the executive branch. He was brought to AIPAC by Larry Weinberg, and influential Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk served as his deputy. In 2004, Rosen became implicated in an FBI espionage investigation on charges of passing classified information on Iran from Larry Franklin, an agent in the Pentagon, to the Israeli Embassy's political counsellor Naor Gilon. Months later he was fired by AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr (whom Rosen had earlier chosen for AIPAC leadership).
- 1 A friend of Israel (Not)
- 2 On Lobbying and Influence
- 3 Target Iran
- 4 FBI Espionage probe
- 5 Rosen's Defamation Suit Against AIPAC
- 6 Affiliations
- 7 Connections
- 8 Rosen Lectures
- 9 Related Articles
- 10 References
A friend of Israel (Not)
Though Rosen has tried to establish himself as a champion of Israel in the United States, attacking critics, and claiming credit for convincing Republican presidents' that Israel and American interests are identical, Israel leaders have been more sceptical. According to former AIPAC official MJ Rosenberg,
- [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin tried to get him fired; neither he nor Shimon Peres considered him remotely loyal to Israel.
On Lobbying and Influence
- A half smile appeared on his face, and he pushed a napkin across the table. “You see this napkin?” he said. “In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”
Influencing the Executive Branch
- that the organization could influence the outcome of policy disputes within the executive branch—in particular, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council.
- Rosen began to court officials. He traded in gossip and speculation, and his reports to aipac’s leaders helped them track currents in Middle East policymaking before those currents coalesced into executive orders. Rosen also used his contacts to carry aipac’s agenda to the White House. An early success came in 1983, when he helped lobby for a strategic coöperation agreement between Israel and the United States, which was signed over the objections of Caspar Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense, and which led to a new level of intelligence sharing and military sales.
Manufacturing a Strategic Asset
In 1982, writes Tivnan, AIPAC began publishing a series heavily footnoted of 'position papers' under Steven Rosen's editorship aimed not at its membership but at policymakers in the White House, Pentagon and State Department. They focused on Israel's strategic value to the United States. The papers had descriptive titles like Israel and the US Air Force or Israel and the US Navy, and touted the strategic assistance that Israel could supposedly offer.
In an AIPAC monograph The Strategic Value of Israel Rosen argued that Israel offers the US four main advantages:
- (1)its "geostrategic position" midway between Europe and the Persian Gulf gives the US an opportunity to move into three theaters of operation--the Gulf, the Mediterranean, and NATO's souther and central fronts; (2) "political stability" of a sound democracy that is not as susceptible as Arab states to a coupe or revolution; (3) "political relability"--today's Arab friends can be tomorrow's ex-rulers, whereas, explains Rosen, "Israel's strategic interests and the value of its people are permanently aligned with those of the Free World"; and (4) "Israel is the one politically and technologically advanced country in the region."
According to Goldberg, Rosen is 'a hard-liner on only one subject—Iran—and this preoccupation helped shape AIPAC’s position: that Iran poses a greater threat to Israel than any other nation...Rosen’s main role at aipac, he once told me, was to collect evidence of “Iranian perfidy” and share it with the United States.'
Iran Libya Sanctions Act
In 1996, according to Goldberg, 'Rosen and other AIPAC staff members helped write, and engineer the passage of Iran and Libya Sanctions Act which imposed sanctions on foreign oil companies doing business with those two countries.'
FBI Espionage probe
- Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were charged in an indictment in August 2005 with conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to journalists and an unnamed foreign power that government officials identified as Israel. Aipac dismissed the two men in April 2005.
- The indictment said the two men had disclosed classified information about a number of subjects, including American policy in Iran, terrorism in central Asia, Al Qaeda and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 Americans, mainly members of the military. Lawyers for the two men have sought to have the indictment against them dismissed.
- As Aipac's director of foreign policy issues, Mr. Rosen was a well-known figure in Washington who helped the organization define its lobbying agenda on the Middle East and forged important relationships with powerful conservatives in the Bush administration.
- According to aipac sources, Rosen and Weissman asked Kohr to give the information to Elliott Abrams, the senior Middle East official on the National Security Council. Kohr didn’t get in touch with Abrams, but Rosen and Weissman made two calls. They called Gilon and told him about the threat to Israeli agents in Iraq, and then they called Glenn Kessler, a diplomatic correspondent at the Washington Post, and told him about the threat to Americans.
Rosen claims he was indicted "not because I violated AIPAC policies, but because I followed them:"
- Rosen says the organization altered its policy on classified information in late 2005, retroactively, after he and Weissman were dismissed. "I think [AIPAC's] behavior is terrible," he says. "When they lose the case, I hope they'll learn something. It's very unjust - I served them for 23 years, they praised everything I did ... and now they are treating me this way. It's unjust and I think they'll regret it." Rosen adds that AIPAC tried to persuade him to withdraw his claim.
Rosen's Defamation Suit Against AIPAC
On March 2, 2009 Rosen filed a civil lawsuit in a Washington, DC court against AIPAC for defamation, arguing that AIPAC used him as a "scapegoat" for their own actions and because they "feared a widening federal investigation into its ties to Israel." In Rosen's words: "They sent me out to do a job, I did the job for 23 years. Trouble came - they have to sacrifice me to save the ship. I was a good soldier..."
Rosen is asking for a total of 21 million in damages ($5 million from AIPAC and punitive damages of $500,000 each from former board member).
Former AIPAC staffer turned political analyst MJ Rosenberg argues that Rosen's suit has the potential to destroy the lobby:
- The Rosen vs. Aipac case is grinding its way through the courts and could well destroy the lobby without ever making its way on to the front page. Aipac is under siege, and is spending millions to stay alive. But that will not be easy - even if Steve Rosen ultimately accepts a payoff from the organisation and refrains from telling what he knows.
AIPAC on the defensive
In its defense AIPAC is claiming that Rosen was dismissed for employee misconduct. From an AIPAC statement sent to Haaretz:
- As the AIPAC pleadings indicate, this defamation lawsuit has absolutely no merit. AIPAC has made it clear during this litigation that it disagrees with Mr. Rosen's characterizations with regard to the events relevant to the litigation. As the pleadings demonstrate, it is AIPAC's position that Steve Rosen's claims are wildly inaccurate, and are undermined by Mr. Rosen's own admissions under oath in his deposition.
Rosenberg argues that AIPAC is attacking Rosen "personally" and although he has harsh criticisms for Rosen's reported Islamophobia and for acting as a "peace-wrecker" throughout negotiations between Israel and Palestine, Rosen calls AIPAC's actions "despicable." So far AIPAC has released a 260 page deposition showing that Rosen visited pornography sites and solicited sexual relations with other men while at work. Rosen shot back by arguing that this was not an unusual occurrence at AIPAC and promised to unveil further reports proving AIPAC's own regular history of employee workplace misconduct.
- Rosen shot back that he had "witnessed" AIPAC's executive director Howard Kohr "view... pornographic images on AIPAC computers," as well as "his secretary do it repeatedly, and call people over to see it, including Howard Kohr." He said he "witnessed other members of staff do it," too.
Rosen also claims that AIPAC "threatened" him with the pornography charges to try to intimidate him into not pursuing the case: "They warned me directly that if I persist with this case, they will start up with this pornography business," Rosen relates, referring to AIPAC's claim in its court-submitted dossier that pornographic materials were found on his work computer. "It's nonsense...The pornography threat, he adds, "is something they came up with later and tried to bully me with this ... it's right out of 'The Sopranos.'"
AIPAC's alleged promise to Rosen
Rosen argued that in 2007 his previous attorney Abbe Lowell told him in an email that during a conversation with AIPAC it became clear that while AIPAC claimed it couldn't act now because that would confirm beliefs that it feared further FBI investigations into their actions, they would eventually "do right" by him. In an e-mail dated 8:08 am on December 15, 2007, Lowell says the following to Rosen:
- Phil reiterated that ‘when this is all over we will do right by Steve’ but said that nothing can be done now as … we cannot have a situation where on the eve of trial after 3 years all of a sudden AIPAC is paying off Steve not to say things or to say things. He is right. Will discuss.
AIPAC public relations representative Patrick Dorton argued that Rosen's evidence was taken from his counsel's "interpretation" of a conversation and taken out of context:
- "If our counsel made such assertions,” Dorton continued, “they were offered as a personal opinion and did not reflect AIPAC’s position. In fact, no payment or benefit was promised by AIPAC and no payment or benefit was ever conveyed, which is why AIPAC is now defending itself against Mr. Rosen's merit-less defamation claim."
- AIPAC - director of foreign policy affairs (1982-2005)
- RAND Corporation
- Middle East Forum - Visiting Fellow and director of the Forum's Washington Project.
- Criticizing Israel, Outside of Israel, Middle East Forum, 4 June 2010 (Rosen argues against criticizing Israel outside of Israel)
- U.S.-Israel Relations in Crisis, Middle East Forum, 21 April 2010
- Israel and the Iranian Bomb, Middle East Forum, 27 April 2009
- Wishful Thinking and Iran, Middle East Forum, 10 November 2008
- James Bamford, Iran: The Next War, Rolling Stone, August 10, 2006.
- Jeffrey Goldberg, Real Insiders, New Yorker, 4 July 2005
- MJ Rosenberg, Steve Rosen, Former Indictee on Espionage, Lectures Obama, The Huffington Post, 18 September 2009
- Tivnan (1987): 180
- Steven J. Rosen, The Strategic Value of Israel (AIPAC Papers on US-Israel Relations: 1, 1982) cited in Tivnan (1987): 180
- DAVID JOHNSTON, "Pentagon Analyst Gets 12 Years for Disclosing Data", New York Times, 20 January 2006
- Pentagon Analyst Gets 12 Years for Disclosing Data, by David Johnston, New York Times, 20 January 2006.
- Natasha Mozgovaya, "'They threw me under the bus'", Haaretz, 21 November 2010
- Associate Press, "Charges dropped against AIPAC lobbyists", Ynet News, 1 May 2009
- Natasha Mozgovaya, "AIPAC dirty laundry aired as former staffer sues for defamation", Haaretz, 17 November 2010
- Jeff Stein, "Rosen claims AIPAC made promises in spy case", Washington Post, 11 May 2010
- Grant Smith, "Steven J. Rosen v. AIPAC", IRMEP, accessed on 23 November 2010
- MJ Rosenberg, "AIPAC: Fighting for survival", Al Jazeera English, 20 November 2010
- IRMEP, "SUPERIOR COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIVIL DIVISION", IRMEP, accessed on 23 November 2010
- Dan Klein, "Porn Heats Up AIPAC Lawsuit", Tablet Magazine, 17 November 2010
- Jeff Stein, "Ex-AIPAC official got at least $670,000 from donors", Washington Post, 19 November 2010
- Jeff Stein, "Rosen claims AIPAC made promises in spy case", Washington Post, 11 May 2010
- Press Releases, Steven J. Rosen Joins MEF as Visiting Fellow, Midddle East Forum, 2 March 2009