Israeli agents want disguises to testify at Miami trial
Undercover agents want to wear wigs, fake facial hair and makeup so they can testify without revealing their true identities at the upcoming trial of Israeli underworld kingpin Zeev Rosenstein, charged with running a worldwide Ecstasy distribution ring
As many as six surveillance officers of the Israel National Police also want to appear in the US Federal trial of Zeev Rosenstein using only an "officer identification number" Rather than their names. They want to limit defense cross-examination that might reveal confidential tactics and spy technology.
"The underlying principle behind these procedures is that in order to operate effectively in a country like Israel, an undercover surveillance officer must preserve his or her complete anonymity," US prosecutors Michael Sullivan and Ben Greenberg said in a motion filed in federal court this week.
Rosenstein, 51, is scheduled to go to trial in November on charges of conspiracy to distribute in the US more than 1 million pills of the synthetic drug MDMA, more commonly known as Ecstasy. Rosenstein is on the US List of 44 top worldwide drug traffickers. He has pleaded not guilty and has been held without bail since his extradition from Israel in March.
The prosecutors' motion says that the Israeli agents' testimony "goes to the heart" of the US case because they witnessed numerous meetings Rosenstein allegedly had with other conspirators in the Ecstasy ring. There was no audio surveillance, making these eyewitness accounts even more critical, the motion said.
'Light disguise'In the US justice system, a defendant has a right to confront and cross-examine accusers, and courts have ruled both ways on whether witnesses may testify in disguises because of concerns about that right and about the impact on jurors. The Israeli government, however, said cover for these agents would be forever blown if they are not disguised.
"In stressing the importance of these protections, we wish to note that Israel is a very small country, with a relatively small and close-knit organized criminal community," the Israeli Ministry of Justice said in a letter to US prosecutors. "The exposure of the identity of any surveillance officer thus inevitably means the end of his or her effectiveness."
The motion asks US District Judge William Dimitrouleas to approve a "light disguise" for the Israeli agents "including makeup, wigs and/or other facial hair for men" as well as the restrictions on questioning about methods and use of numbers instead of names. Dimitrouleas had not ruled on the motion as of Thursday.
Rosenstein's attorney, Howard Srebnick, did not immediately return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment about the request.