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US Indicts Two Pro-Israel Lobbyists in Secrets Case

U.S. federal prosecutors are moving forward with charges against two former lobbyists for an influential pro-Israel organization, issuing an indictment that says they illegally conspired to receive and disclose classified information. Thursday's indictment also listed new charges against a former Defense Department analyst who has already been accused of passing secrets.

Prosecutors say Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman were senior staff members at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), when in April 1999 they began to illegally gather sensitive U.S. government information and pass secrets to others including foreign government officials. Media reports say U.S. officials have confirmed Israeli government officials were involved.

U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty says the men used information from senior Defense Department analyst Larry Franklin and other unnamed officials to try to influence people within and outside the U.S. government.

"Larry Franklin repeatedly transferred classified information to others not entitled to receive it, including Rosen and Weissman. Also for the purpose for advancing his own policy agenda and his career," said Mr. McNulty.

Mr. Franklin worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense and he held a top security clearance. He already faces charges for passing classified information about attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Prosecutors say the two former AIPAC lobbyists disclosed information about issues including terrorism in central Asia, American policy on Iran, al Qaida and a 1996 bomb attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American troops. AIPAC fired the two lobbyists last April, saying it let them go, because they engaged in activities that were not part of their jobs and they broke the organization's standards of conduct.

The organization has an influential presence in Washington. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and dozens of U.S. lawmakers attended a recent AIPAC conference in the U.S. capital.

Israeli embassy officials say they have agreed to cooperate with an investigation into the leaked secrets, but they deny any wrongdoing by their diplomats.

Israel and the United States are close allies, but their relationship was shaken in 1985 when a U.S. naval intelligence analyst was convicted of spying for Israel. Jonathan Pollard is serving a life sentence in federal prison for passing secrets to Israel.