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News media seek public access in AIPAC trial

By The Associated Press
04.10.07

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — News organizations filed documents in federal court yesterday opposing a government request to close portions of the upcoming trial of two former pro-Israel lobbyists accused of violating the Espionage Act.

News-media organizations, including the Associated Press, are concerned the government wants to keep large portions of evidence in the case out of public view when former American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman go to trial.

Defense attorneys have expressed a similar concern, filing a motion to "Strike the Government's Request to Close the Trial."

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected a similar motion filed last month and said at the time that he thought defense lawyers in the AIPAC case were being overdramatic in portraying the government as seeking to "close the trial."

In rare cases, courts have allowed the government to use what is called "the silent witness rule," in which a jury sees certain evidence against the defendants that is never made available publicly.

Rosen and Weissman are accused of violating the rarely prosecuted World War I-era law, the Espionage Act of 1917, that bars the receipt and disclosure of national defense information.


Update
Federal judge rejects secrecy for AIPAC trial
Court says government proposal to keep huge swaths of evidence out of public view is unprecedented, would violate defendants', public's right to open trial. 04.17.07

Previous
Judge orders probe of leak in AIPAC case
Federal court tells Justice Dept. to investigate how news media learned of criminal probe involving two pro-Israel lobbyists now on trial for illegally disclosing classified info. 08.23.06

Related

AIPAC, Espionage Act & First Amendment

By Ron Collins Though ruling two lobbyists can be prosecuted for leaking national-security info, judge also says Congress should review 1917 law. 09.04.06

Criminalizing speech to protect secrets
By Paul K. McMasters The specter of an 'official secrets act' rises again, casting a pall over free speech, free flow of information and government accountability. 08.13.06

'Surge in secrecy: Democracy’s incremental disaster'
Speech by Paul K. McMasters at National FOI Day Conference, March 16, 2007. 03.27.07

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