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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 22:35 GMT
Rice subpoenaed in spying trial
James Coomarasamy
BBC News, Washington

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Secretary Rice could lift the lid on the inner workings of the US government
A federal judge has ordered US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior colleagues to testify in the trial of two pro-Israel lobbyists.

The lobbyists are accused of passing classified information to government officials and journalists in Israel.

They say they were regularly asked by the US government to give information to the Israelis.

Ms Rice's court appearance could shed light on American policy-making in the Middle East.

The two defendants in the case are former lobbyists for the influential American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac.

They are accused of passing secrets obtained from a since-convicted Pentagon official to government officials and media outlets in Israel.

Go-betweens

The information they are alleged to have leaked included details of American policy in Iran and intelligence about the al-Qaeda network.

Their lawyers argue that they were regularly used as go-betweens by the American government and, as such, had an unofficial but approved role in the shaping of Middle East policy.

The lobbyists were therefore unaware, according to the lawyers, that their behaviour in this case was criminal.

Now, in a potentially embarrassing ruling for the Bush administration, a federal judge has issued subpoenas for top current and former government officials, including Ms Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, ordering them to testify at next year's trial.

District Judge T S Ellis III said the lobbyists had a right to argue that, as far as they were concerned, their meetings with the now-convicted Pentagon analyst were simply examples of the US government's use of Aipac as a diplomatic back channel.

The administration will now be wondering whether to pursue this espionage case and risk the public exposure of certain sensitive aspects of its foreign policy-making process.





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