Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

AIPAC SPY TRIAL: Franklin Mentioned Naor Gilon by Name in Court

The Jewish Journal Of Greater Los Angeles: "2005-10-14

A Defiant, Guilty Plea in AIPAC Case
by Ron Kampeas, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Lawrence Franklin’s plea-bargain pledge to cooperate with the U.S. government in its case against two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) officials was put to the test as soon as it was made.

“It was unclassified and it is unclassified,” Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, insisted in court last week, describing a document that the government maintains is classified. The document is central to one of the conspiracy charges against Steve Rosen, the former foreign policy chief of AIPAC.

Guilty pleas usually are remorseful, sedate affairs. But Franklin appeared defiant and agitated in an Alexandria, Va., courthouse on Oct. 5 when he pleaded guilty as part of a deal that may leave him with a reduced sentence and part of his government pension.

Franklin’s prickliness could prove another setback for the U.S. government in a case that the presiding judge already has suggested could be dismissed because of questions about access to evidence.

Franklin’s performance unsettled prosecutors, who will attempt to prove that Rosen and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s former Iran analyst, conspired with Franklin to communicate secret information. The case goes to trial Jan. 2.

The argument over the faxed document furnished the most dramatic encounter Wednesday.

“It was a list of murders,” Franklin began to explain to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis when Thomas Reilly, a youthful, red-headed lawyer from the Justice Department, leapt from his seat, shouting, “Your Honor, that’s classified!”

Ellis agreed to seal that portion of the hearing. JTA has learned that the fax was a list of terrorist incidents believed to have been backed by Iran.

There were other elements of Franklin’s plea that suggest he is not ready to cooperate to the fullest extent. The government says Franklin leaked information to the AIPAC employees because he thought it could advance his career, but Franklin says his motivation was “frustration with policy” on Iran at the Pentagon.

Franklin said he believed Rosen and Weissman were better connected than he and would be able to relay his concerns to officials at the White House’s National Security Council.

He did not explicitly mention in court that Iran was his concern. But JTA has learned that Franklin thought his superiors at the Pentagon were overly distracted by the Iraq war in 2003 — when he established contact with Rosen and Weissman — and weren’t paying enough attention to Iran.

The penal code criminalizes relaying information that “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Franklin’s testimony would not be much use to the prosecution if he believed Rosen and Weissman simply were relaying information from the Pentagon to the White House, sources close to the defense of Rosen and Weissman said.

“I was convinced they would relay this information back-channel to friends on the NSC,” he said.

In any case, the section of the penal code that deals with civilians who obtain and relay classified information rarely, if ever, has been used in a prosecution, partly because it runs up against First Amendment protections for journalists and lobbyists, who frequently deal with secrets.

A spokesman for Abbe Lowell, Rosen’s lawyer, said Franklin’s guilty plea “has no impact on our case because a government employee’s actions in dealing with classified information is simply not the same as a private person, whether that person is a reporter or a lobbyist.”

The essence of Franklin’s guilty plea seemed to be only that he knew the recipients were unauthorized to receive the information. Beyond that, he insisted, he had no criminal intent.

Admitting guilt to another charge, relaying information to Naor Gilon, the chief political officer at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Franklin said that he wasn’t giving away anything that the Israeli didn’t already know.

“I knew in my heart that his government had this information,” Franklin said. “He gave me far more information than I gave him.”

Franklin turned prosecutors’ heads when he named Gilon, the first public confirmation that the foreign country hinted at in indictments is Israel. Indictments refer to a “foreign official.”

The suggestion that Franklin was mining Gilon for information, and not the other way around, turns on its head the description of the case when it first was revealed in late August 2004, after the FBI raided AIPAC’s offices. At the time, CBS described Franklin as an “Israeli spy.”

Asked about his client’s outburst, Franklin’s lawyer, Plato Cacheris, said only that it was “gratuitous.”

But Franklin’s claim reinforced an argument put forward by Israel — that Gilon was not soliciting anything untoward in the eight or nine meetings he had with Franklin beginning in 2002.

“We have full confidence in our diplomats, who are dedicated professionals and conduct themselves in accordance with established diplomatic practice,” said David Siegel, an embassy spokesman. “Israel is a close ally of the United States, and we exchange information on a formalized basis on these issues. There would be no reason for any wrongdoing on the part of our diplomats.”

Franklin also pleaded guilty to removing classified documents from the authorized area, which encompasses Maryland, Virginia and Washington, when he brought material to his home in West Virginia.

He sounded another defensive note in explaining the circumstances: He brought the material home on June 30, 2004, he said, to bone up for the sort of tough questions he often faced from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld’s then-deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

Franklin, who has five children and an ill wife, said he is in dire circumstances, parking cars at a horse-race track, waiting tables and tending bar to make ends meet. Keeping part of his government pension for his wife was key to Franklin’s agreement to plead guilty, Cacheris told JTA.

Franklin pleaded guilty to three different charges, one having to do with his alleged dealings with the former AIPAC officials; one having to do with Gilon; and one for taking classified documents home.

The language of the plea agreement suggests that the government will argue for a soft sentence, agreeing to Franklin’s preferred minimum-security facility and allowing for concurrent sentencing. But it conditions its recommendations on Franklin being “reasonably available for debriefing and pre-trial conferences.”

The prosecution asked for sentencing to be postponed until Jan. 20, more than two weeks after the trial against Rosen and Weissman begins, suggesting that government leniency will be proportional to Franklin’s performance.

Franklin is a star witness, but he’s not the entire case. The charges against Rosen and Weissman, apparently also based on wiretapped conversations, allege that the two former AIPAC staffers shared classified information with fellow AIPAC staffers, the media and foreign government officials.

Two other U.S. government officials who allegedly supplied Rosen and Weissman with information have not been charged: David Satterfield, then deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and now the No. 2 man at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Kenneth Pollack, a Clinton-era National Security Council staffer who is now an analyst at the Brookings Institution.

The problem with the wiretap evidence lies in the government’s refusal to share much of it or even to say exactly how much it has. In a recent filing, the government said that even the quantity of the material should remain classified.

In a Sept. 19 hearing, Ellis suggested to prosecutor Kevin DiGregori that his failure to share the defendants’ wiretapped conversations with the defense team could lead to the case being dismissed.

“I am having a hard time, Mr. DiGregori, getting over the fact that the defendants can’t hear their own statements, and whether that is so fundamental that if it doesn’t happen, this case will have to be dismissed,” Ellis said.

DiGregori said the government might indeed prefer to see the case dismissed rather than turn over the material.

AIPAC fired Rosen and Weissman in April but is paying for their defense because of provisions in its bylaws. AIPAC had no comment, nor did lawyers for Weissman."

USATODAY.com - Investigator of CIA leak seen as relentless - Patrick Fitzgerald the Honest Man

USATODAY.com - Investigator of CIA leak seen as relentless: "Posted 10/10/2005 10:06 PM

Investigator of CIA leak seen as relentless
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — When defense attorney Ron Safer heard that Patrick Fitzgerald would lead an inquiry into the leak of a CIA operative's name, his first thought was that, from the Bush administration's perspective, "they could not have picked a worse person."

"He ... goes where the facts lead him": CIA leak investigator Patrick Fitzgerald.
By Charles Rex Arbogast, AP

Safer, a Chicago lawyer who has watched Fitzgerald since he was named U.S. attorney there in 2001, says the prosecutor "will bring to this the same energy and aggression that he does to every other project he undertakes."

Fitzgerald's official biography says he was named special counsel in December 2003 to investigate "the alleged disclosure of the identity of a purported employee of the Central Intelligence Agency."

That bland description understates the drama and stakes of the investigation. New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to testify. The inquiry led to interviews of President Bush and Vice President Cheney and to grand jury subpoenas for White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby and at least a dozen other officials.

Fitzgerald is to meet with Miller today to discuss newly discovered notes on her conversations with Libby. Rove will testify this week before the grand jury for a fourth time.

Fitzgerald wants to know who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to reporters. Her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, says her cover was blown in retaliation for an op-ed article he wrote in 2003 that accused Bush of "twisting" intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Perspectives

The inquiry has roiled Washington for months, and tensions are rising because Fitzgerald's grand jury expires Oct. 28. But the man in charge is not a Beltway celebrity. He doesn't hold news conferences in Washington or appear on TV. Friends say he's brilliant and apolitical. Defense lawyers say he can be cold and sometimes surprises them by boldly challenging judges.

Friends and critics agree that his integrity is unassailable and that he is relentless. The list of people he has prosecuted — including al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, former Illinois governor George Ryan and New York mobsters — shows he has no qualms about going after the powerful.

Fitzgerald's politics, motivations and style have prompted debate.

"He has no agenda," says David Kelley, former U.S. attorney in New York and a longtime friend. "He looks at the facts, uncovers the facts and goes where the facts lead him."

Mary Jo White, who was Fitzgerald's boss when she was U.S. attorney in Manhattan, says she knows nothing about his political views — "if he has any, and he may not."

Fitzgerald, who declined interview requests, is registered to vote with no party affiliation.

Defense lawyers have a different perspective. Scott Mendeloff, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in corporate fraud cases and formerly tried and supervised public corruption prosecutions in the U.S. attorney's office, says Fitzgerald demonstrates "a more black-and-white view of the world" that is "reductionist in disregarding nuances beyond what it will take to prevail." Some defense lawyers, he says, believe Fitzgerald is "not prone to consider what some would term humane factors in charging and sentencing decisions."

"To say that he is extremely aggressive is, I think, a gross understatement," Safer says. When he's arguing a motion, Safer says, Fitzgerald is "not disrespectful, but he's a lot less deferential than I bet most judges are accustomed to."

History

Fitzgerald, 44, was born in Brooklyn. His Irish immigrant father, Patrick Sr., worked as a doorman at a building in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Fitzgerald went to Regis High School, a Jesuit preparatory school, then worked on its maintenance crew to pay his way through Amherst College. He majored in math and economics, then went to Harvard Law School.

He worked in a New York law firm before joining the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan in 1988. He stayed for 13 years, convicting Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and indicting bin Laden in a conspiracy that included the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

In Chicago, Fitzgerald has indicted two aides to Mayor Richard Daley on mail-fraud charges after an investigation into bribery and hiring abuses. Ryan is on trial on charges of racketeering conspiracy, mail and tax fraud and false statements during his terms as governor and Illinois secretary of State.

Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who teaches political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago, says Fitzgerald is "almost universally admired ... for telling the truth and prosecuting these cases." He isn't suspected of political motives, Simpson says, because he came to Chicago with no ties to its top politicians and keeps a low profile. "He's doesn't do lunches at the important clubs or make rah-rah speeches," Simpson says.

Even lawyers who question Fitzgerald's tactics say they don't doubt his character. "Pat is driven by iron-tight integrity and a tireless work ethic," Mendeloff says.

Safer, who also once worked in the U.S. attorney's office, faults Fitzgerald for "trying to expand the reach of the mail fraud statutes in ways that are unprecedented" in his government corruption cases. Some errors by politicians, Safer says, "are punishable at the ballot box and not in criminal court." He says Fitzgerald "is impervious to political pressure. ... I've seen no evidence that he has anything but the purest motives."

White says it's unfair to suggest that Fitzgerald is too aggressive. "He's going to pursue matters ... with dedication and thoroughness," she says, "but overzealous? Certainly not."

Miguel Estrada, who worked with Fitzgerald in New York and represents Time reporter Matthew Cooper in the leak inquiry, says Fitzgerald, who is single and a workaholic, is "the picture of what the public would think is an earnest prosecutor. He's a boy scout."

Chuck Rosenberg, a Fitzgerald friend who is U.S. attorney in Houston, was asked recently why Fitzgerald is going after reporters. "I said to them, 'Pat isn't going after journalists, he is after the truth,' " Rosenberg says. "He's exactly the kind of person you'd want doing something like this.""