Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shamai Leibowitz Breaks his Silence

Initial reporting on issues of national security is often wrong. This was the case when John Kiriakou inaccurately described the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah to ABC News in 2007. This was also the case when CBS initially described the Fast and Furious operation. Fortune magazine conducted a 6 month investigation on the operation and has alleged that the ATF wasn’t purposely letting guns walk, Fortune says that they were instead prevented from stopping the guns as a result of weak gun laws in Arizona. The Fortune piece has its critics as well.

The public and the press don’t know much about most classified programs, so when a source comes forward with claims about those programs, the press often has no ability to compare those claims with known information.

I wasn’t quite sure how to describe this post; it is something between a correction and a follow-up.

Shamai Leibowitz pled guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking information to the press and has served his sentence. While Shamai was still in prison, Richard Silverstein came forward and alleged that Shamai had provided him with transcripts showing that the FBI had wiretapped the Israeli Embassy. Silverstein said that the transcripts showed that the Israeli Embassy was lobbying members of Congress to support a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Silverstein said that this troubled both Leibowitz and himself because they feared that a military strike on Iran could lead to a war with Iran.

At the time Leibowitz did not comment on the allegations. Thus, in the absence of any contradictory evidence, I stated Silverstein’s claims as fact.

But now, Shamai has broken his silence. In June he published a post on his blog, Pursuing Justice, where he alleged that Silverstein made up the story and that he had never communicated with Silverstein. Leibowitz claims that he shared documents with a Journalist that showed the FBI was engaged in illegal and unconstitutional acts. Leibowitz said that he had no problem with Israelis lobbying members of Congress. His post is worth reading.

Either Silverstein or Leibowitz is lying. I do not pretend to know which is the case. Only the Justice Department knows. Unfortunately, it appears that this dispute will remain clouded by the veil of secrecy that Leibowitz’s prosecution was designed to protect.

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