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.