Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Thursday, October 06, 2005

MercuryNews.com | 10/06/2005 | Iran expert admits giving data to pro-Israel group

MercuryNews.com | 10/06/2005 | Iran expert admits giving data to pro-Israel group: "Posted on Thu, Oct. 06, 2005

Iran expert admits giving data to pro-Israel group
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post

WASHINGTON - A Defense Department analyst pleaded guilty Wednesday to passing government secrets to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group and revealed for the first time that he also gave classified information directly to an Israeli government official in Washington.

Lawrence A. Franklin told a judge in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., that he met at least eight times with Naor Gilon, who was the political officer at the Israeli Embassy before being recalled last summer.

The guilty plea and Franklin's account appeared to cast doubt on longstanding denials by Israeli officials that they engage in any intelligence activities in the United States. The possibility of continued Israeli spying in Washington has been a sensitive subject between the two governments since Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, admitted to spying for Israel in 1987 and was sentenced to life in prison.

David Siegel, a representative of the Israeli Embassy, said Israeli officials have been approached by U.S. investigators and are cooperating. ``We have full confidence in our diplomats, who are dedicated professionals who conduct themselves in full accordance with established diplomatic practices,'' Siegel said.

Court documents filed along with Franklin's plea said he provided classified data -- including information about a Middle Eastern country's activities in Iraq and weapons tests conducted by a foreign country -- to an unidentified ``foreign official.''

The country was not named, but as Franklin entered his plea, he disclosed that some of the material he gave the lobbyists related to Iran. His attorneys stopped him from speaking further, and prosecutors immediately accused Franklin of revealing classified information in court.

Franklin said he passed the information because he was ``frustrated'' with the direction of U.S. policy and thought he could influence it by having the recipients relay the data through ``back channels'' to officials on the National Security Council. He said he never intended to harm the United States, ``not even for a second,'' and that he received far more information from Gilon than he gave. ``I knew in my heart that his government already had the information,'' he said.

Franklin, 58, a specialist on Iran, pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts and a third charge of possessing classified documents. The Defense Department suspended Franklin, who said in court that he now works as a waiter and bartender and at a racetrack. He faces up to 25 years in prison at his sentencing Jan. 20. As part of the plea agreement, Franklin has agreed to cooperate in the larger federal investigation.

Legal experts called the plea a major development in the long-running investigation of whether U.S. secrets were passed to the Israeli government. Franklin said he disclosed classified data to two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Those employees, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, have been charged in what prosecutors said was a broad conspiracy to obtain and illegally pass classified information to foreign officials and news reporters."


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