(CN) – Steven Rosen, former foreign policy director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to revive his $20 million defamation suit against the nation’s most influential pro-Israel lobby.
According to his March 2009 complaint, Rosen’s job was to “maintain relationships with [governmental] agencies, receive [foreign policy] information, and share it with AIPAC Board of Directors and its senior staff for possible further distribution.”
In 2004, the Justice Department announced an investigation of Rosen and another AIPAC employee for espionage. Both were indicted for illegally obtaining classified documents from a Pentagon official. The charges were dropped, but not before AIPAC had fired Rosen.
Rosen was allegedly humiliated when AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton told The New York Times that Rosen was dismissed because his behavior “did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects from its employees.”
Against AIPAC’s claims of standards, Rosen said the organization had previously provided him with a lawyer and endorsed his activities in a similar 1980s investigation. At that time, Rosen had received information that members of Libya’s U.N. mission had given money to a U.S. presidential candidate’s staff.
When the Justice Department allegedly threatened to prosecute AIPAC as well in relation to the 2004 allegations, the organization fired Rosen.
AIPAC later bolstered its misconduct claims by submitting in court that Rosen watched pornography on his office computer.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Erik Christian dismissed Rosen’s claim on summary judgment in February, saying AIPAC’s statement is “not probably false.”
In a new motion for appeal, Rosen said the judge was wrong because AIPAC executives’ motives and beliefs for firing him are “provable facts” that, if true, give rise to a prima facie defamation claim. Rosen asked the court to set the judgment aside and order a jury trial.
Rosen had worked at AIPAC for 23 years prior to the incident.