The decision by the Justice Department to drop its case against two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was a wise one. The case, misconceived from the start, created more problems than it solved.
The saga began more than four years ago when the government accused the two AIPAC staff members, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, of receiving secret information about U.S. policy in the Middle East from a Pentagon analyst and then passing it on to a Washington Post reporter and an Israeli diplomat. Rosen and Weissman were indicted in 2005 under a little-used provision of the 1917 Espionage Act, and their trial was to have begun next month.
From the start, the case was about more than it seemed, raising tricky, volatile issues at a moment when Jewish neoconservatives in the Bush administration were already under attack for being too loyal to Israel, and as AIPAC -- America's top pro-Israel lobbying organization -- was being accused of leading a powerful and possibly nefarious "Israel lobby." Yet the Bush administration pursued the case doggedly, devoting millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to it.
So why did the government drop the case last week? In part because of the change of administrations and, no doubt, a desire on the part of the new guys to choose their own battles. Even more persuasive was a series of unfavorable rulings by the trial court judge that made the case hard, if not impossible, to win.