Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Haaretz - Providing Cover in the AIPAC/Spy affair

Haaretz - Israel News - FBI charges Pentagon analyst in AIPAC affair: "FBI charges Pentagon analyst in AIPAC affair

By Nathan Guttman
WASHINGTON - Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin was formally charged yesterday with passing classified military information about Iraq to two individuals, believed to be former officials of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC.

Franklin, an analyst on the Iranian desk in the Pentagon, turned himself in to the FBI yesterday morning and was placed under arrest. He made a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., and was released on $100,000 bond on condition he surrender his firearms and passport. A preliminary hearing was set for May 27. Franklin's lawyer, John Richards, said he expects his client will plead innocent. If convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison.

The charges made no mention of suspected espionage; that Franklin knowingly helped a foreign government, as originally reported when the scandal was revealed last summer; nor of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or the state of Israel.

Nonetheless, official sources involved in the inquiry say that AIPAC officials are suspected of receiving the secret information. The Justice Department said that the investigation continues, which presumably means focusing on the two former AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, who allegedly received the information, as well as on the activities of the lobbying group. That kind of probe could end with indictments against the two or a plea bargain. Rosen and Weissman were fired by AIPAC last month.

"Steve Rosen never solicited, received or passed on any classified documents from Larry Franklin, and Mister Franklin will never be able to say otherwise," Rosen's attorney, Abbe Lowell, said yesterday.

The charge sheet did say explicitly that Franklin told the two that the material he was giving them was top secret, which means the FBI may have been laying the groundwork for legal steps against them for receiving classified material and possibly for handing it over to others.

"There is probable cause to believe that Lawrence Anthony Franklin knowingly and unlawfully disclosed classified information relating to the national security defense, that is, with reason to believe that it could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation," said Special FBI Agent Catherine Hanna.

The charge sheet states that Franklin "did lawfully having possession or access to, control over, and being entrusted with information relating to the national defense, which defendant had reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States and the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicate, deliver and transmit that information relation to the national defense to persons not entitled to receive it."

The charge sheet details the June 26, 2003 meeting between Franklin and the two AIPAC officials, who are called "US Person 1" and "US Person 2" in the indictment.

Rosen was director of policy for the lobby, and Weissman was in charge of the lobby's Iranian desk. They met with Franklin, says the indictment, at an Italian restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. According to the charge sheet, Franklin provided verbal information relating to possible attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, told them that the information was "top secret," and "asked them not to use it," according to the indictment.

A search of Franklin's office a year later uncovered the secret document from which he gleaned the information that he allegedly gave the two AIPAC officials. But the indictment goes on to state that Franklin also gave classified American information to a "foreign official" and to journalists.

The indictment does not detail the nature of the information he provided, but in previous reports there was mention of information about Iran, while in the indictment Iraq is specifically mentioned.

Speculative reports have said that the information was about risks to the lives of Israelis operating in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but it is not clear from the indictment if that is the case. Law enforcement sources quoted in the U.S. media said the information concerned a possible attack by pro-Iranian forces in Iraq on American troops.

In June 2004, the FBI searched Franklin's home, finding 83 documents of various levels of classification being held illegally. The documents were from various periods when Franklin served in the U.S. defense establishment. He was immediately stripped of his security clearance and was denied access to his department in the Pentagon. He was later reinstated, but moved to a different job.

Franklin, who formerly worked in the office of policy undersecretary Douglas Feith, holds a doctorate in Asian studies and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserves."