Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Yahoo! News - Alleged Israel Leak a Burden for Rumsfeld

Yahoo! News - Alleged Israel Leak a Burden for Rumsfeld: "Alleged Israel Leak a Burden for Rumsfeld

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON - The FBI (news - web sites) investigation into whether a Pentagon (news - web sites) analyst passed classified information to Israel is yet another political weight on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, still fending off criticism over the Iraq (news - web sites) war and prisoner abuse.

It is not clear whether the investigation will result in charges of espionage at the Pentagon. At the least, the probe complicates Rumsfeld's position as congressional committees that oversee the Defense Department prepare for more hearings on the abuse scandal.

Rumsfeld has not commented publicly on the FBI's investigation. While the FBI has spent more than a year on the case, it only became public Friday.

It is focused on an analyst of Iranian affairs who works in a policy office headed by Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary for policy. He has been accused by Democrats of seeking to manipulate intelligence to help make the case for going to war in Iraq. Congressional investigations have found no evidence of that.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the FBI investigation has broadened to include interviews with individuals at the State and Defense departments as well as Mideast affairs specialists outside the government. Israeli officials predicted that the allegation it got secret information on White House policy toward Iran from the Pentagon analyst would prove false.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired CIA (news - web sites) officer and former director of White House intelligence programs during the Reagan administration, said Sunday, "It's another scandal for the Pentagon," with the potential in this case of going beyond the single individual under investigation.

Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld's chief spokesman, said Sunday that the Pentagon is sticking by its initial statement Friday that it understands the investigation is limited in scope. He said it would be inappropriate for him or Rumsfeld to comment further because it is an active investigation.

As for the possible political implications for Rumsfeld at the height of a presidential election campaign, Di Rita said, "I would not try to predict how the political season will affect this."

Early in his tenure at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld spoke out publicly against the unauthorized release of classified information. He undertook a special investigation when some elements of Pentagon planning for war in Iraq leaked to the news media in 2002.

In his 3 1/2 years as secretary, Rumsfeld has had a sometimes rocky relationship with Congress. When the administration began a global fight against terrorism in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his stock rose quickly and he gained popularity for his tough approach.

But as the insurgency in Iraq took hold in the summer of 2003 and the casualty toll for American troops mounted — more than 950 have been killed — Rumsfeld became a target of criticism on Capitol Hill.

A Time magazine poll released Saturday said 39 percent of those surveyed approve of the job Rumsfeld has done and 37 disapprove. They were split on whether President Bush (news - web sites) should replace Rumsfeld: 49 percent said Rumsfeld should go and 48 percent preferred that he stay.

Rumsfeld, 72, took much political heat when the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal came to light in April with photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners.

Two official investigations found that the highest levels of the Defense Department shared blame for management lapses that may have contributed to the problems at Abu Ghraib. But those reviews found no evidence to suggest that Rumsfeld ordered, encouraged or condoned any abuse of Iraqis.

To the suggestion that Rumsfeld resign over the abuse scandal, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger said last week that such a development would be a "boon to all of America's enemies."

Schlesinger headed an independent panel that looked into the abuse. A second panelist, former Defense Secretary Harold Brown, agreed that Rumsfeld acted appropriately.

"If the head of a department had to resign every time anyone down below did something wrong, it would be a very empty Cabinet table" Brown said.

That was just days before news broke of the FBI investigation at the Pentagon. "

J'lem admits relationship with Franklin Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "J'lem denies 'running' Franklin

Sources in Jerusalem vehemently denied any Israeli espionage in the US, terming as an "internal US political story" the reports that a mid-level Pentagon official is under investigation for allegedly passing classified material to AIPAC, which in turn allegedly passed it on to Israel.

Security sources in Israel confirmed Sunday morning that Larry Franklin, the suspected "mole" in the Pentagon, did in fact have work ties with Jerusalem, but declare that the relationship most certainly did not deviate from standard diplomatic contact, Israel Radio reported.

"This is an American political story, an elections story, a pre-convention story to try to slander and criticize [US President George W.] Bush. It has nothing to do with us," one source in Jerusalem said.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office released Saturday night said the government was not aware of the incident, adding that "Israel is not employing any intelligence assets in the United States."

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz said Israel had taken a decision to halt all espionage activities against the US following the 1985 arrest of American naval analyst Jonathan Pollard for passing on secrets to Israel.

"Following the Pollard crisis 20 years ago, there was a decision not to spy against the US government or its subsidiaries, and I am confident that this is still the case," Steinitz said.
Despite Israel's deep concern about Iran's nuclear program, it would not be tempted to break that ban, Steinitz said.

"Israel is very concerned... that the ayatollahs will acquire nuclear weapons," he said. "But if you think this might change our previous decision [not] to spy on the US, the answer is no."
The Jerusalem sources said that the story, which broke on the eve of the Republican National Convention in New York, comes amid an attempt over the last few months to attack the neo-conservatives close to Bush, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliot Abrams, and to create the impression that the neo-cons, many of whom are Jewish, led Bush into war in Iraq because it was good for Israel, and now are trying to do the same with Iran.

"This is part of the effort to find fault with Bush, and cast him as someone who is surrounded and controlled by Jewish Zionists," one official said.

The story, according to these sources, fits in neatly with the anti-Semitic agenda of some in the US who are accusing Israel of being behind Bush's war in Iraq.

The sources said that, with the current election campaign focusing on Bush's competence to govern and command, this story is designed to tarnish his image.

Sources in Jerusalem said that it is illogical to believe that Israel would be running moles in Washington for two reasons: First, because the Israeli diplomatic and security establishment is still traumatized by the Pollard Affair, and would not risk jeopardizing intimate ties with the US by repeating any such measures. Secondly, the relationship with the US is so strong, and the ties so close, that Israel could get highly sensitive material through regular diplomatic channels.

Israel's defense establishment said it conducted a thorough examination over the weekend with all security and intelligence bodies to verify the veracity of the reports.

"The examination revealed what we expected," a senior defense official told The Jerusalem Post. "There are no sanctioned espionage operations going on against the United States. There is no truth to these reports.


JPost: Who is Larry Franklin?

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Who is Larry Franklin?

The FBI is investigating whether a mid-level Pentagon official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Larry Franklin, passed classified material regarding internal policy deliberations on Iran to two staffers at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who in turn provided the information to Israel.

Franklin, a colonel in the US Air Force Reserve, served in the past as an attache at the US embassy in Israel, one source told The Jerusalem Post.

A US Embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv said, "the Embassy has no comment on this issue."

Sources in Jerusalem said it is quite possible that Larry Franklin, the alleged Pentagon informant, met with AIPAC officials as part of routine conversations lobbyists always have with officials, but that it is inconceivable this is something that could be construed as espionage.

The FBI's investigation of Larry Franklin began not long after it was leaked that the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans sent two Defense officials, one of them Franklin, to Paris to meet with a dissident Iranian arms trader.

The latter, Manucher Ghorbanifar, played a central role in the Iran-Contra affair – in which Israel had a major involvement – in the mid 1980's.

The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaida operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

Franklin met Ghorbanifar through Washington's neo-con guru Michael Ledeen. Ghorbanifar at the time (before the invasion of Iraq), had spun the Pentagon men with unsubstantiated allegations of Iraqi transfers of uranium to the Iranian nuclear weapons program, according to The Nation magazine.

Franklin, and a Pentagon Islam expert Harold Rhode, had also played a key role in establishing the Defense's Office of Special Plans, and feverishly pushed for an American invasion of both Iraq and Iran, said The Nation.

One Iranian dissident living in Paris who knows Ghorbanifar, Franklin and Rhode, said the "Franklin Affair," is "fishy." He said that the US relies on Israel for intelligence on Iran, and due to the "zigzagging" of US policy on Iran, wondered what Franklin could allegedly smuggled to Israeli officials."