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Posted Sunday, August 29, 2004

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[Website comment: Caught with their pants right down. Is the real axis of evil Washington - Tel Aviv. Our estimate on the countdown to Holocaust-USA -- twenty years or less now.]

Saturday -- Sunday, August 28-29, 2004

Alleged Leak to Israel Probed for a Year

By Curt Anderson

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has spent more than a year covertly investigating, including with the use of electronic surveillance, whether a Pentagon analyst funneled highly classified material to Israel, officials said Saturday. Prosecutors were still weighing whether to bring the most serious charge of espionage.

Charges could be brought in the case as early as next week, said two federal law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The case has taken so long in part because of diplomatic sensitivities between the United States and its close ally Israel, they said.

Although the information involved -- material describing Bush administration policy toward Iran -- was described as highly classified, prosecutors could determine that the crime involved falls short of espionage and could result in lesser but still serious charges of mishandling classified documents, the officials said.

They said the still-classified material did not detail U.S. military or intelligence operations and was not the type that would endanger the lives of U.S. spies overseas or betray sensitive methods of intelligence collection.

The target of the probe was identified by the two officials as Larry Franklin, a senior analyst in a Pentagon office dealing with Middle East affairs. Franklin, who did not respond to a telephone message left at his office Saturday, formerly worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Efforts to find a home telephone number were unsuccessful.

In a statement late Friday, the Defense Department, without identifying anyone by name, said the inquiry involved someone at the "desk officer level, who was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy. Nor could a foreign power be in a position to influence U.S. policy through this individual."

Franklin works in an office overseen by Douglas J. Feith, (right) the defense undersecretary for policy. Feith is an influential aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whose previous work included prewar intelligence on Iraq, including purported ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida terrorism network.

In August 2003, Franklin and a Pentagon colleague were in the news after it was disclosed they had met two years earlier with Manuchar Ghorbanifar, who was among the Iranians who suggested to the Reagan administration in the 1980s that profits from arms-for-hostages deals be funneled into covert arms shipments to U.S.-backed Contra rebels battling the leftist Nicaraguan government.

The investigation centers on whether Franklin passed classified U.S. material on Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the highly influential main Israeli lobbying organization in Washington, and whether that group in turn passed them on to Israel. Both AIPAC and Israel deny the allegations. [Website note for British readers: Mandy Rice-Davies].

The U.S. law enforcement officials stressed that the investigation is not yet complete and it remained possible that others could be implicated. They would not comment on whether that might include officials at AIPAC, which said it has been cooperating in the investigation.

"Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or its employees is false and baseless," AIPAC said in a statement.

SharonIn Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (left) issued a statement Saturday saying that Israel has no connection to the matter. Israeli officials say their government halted all espionage activities in the United States after the 1985 arrest of Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard on charges of passing secrets to Israel.

"Israel does not engage in intelligence activities in the U.S. We deny all these reports," the statement said.

The investigation is being handled by U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, whose Virginia district includes the Pentagon and whose office regularly deals with classified material, terrorism and other sensitive matters. The FBI's counterintelligence division and counterespionage prosecutors at the main Justice Department in Washington are also involved in the case.

The law enforcement officials said that until the past few weeks, the investigation has been kept under tight wraps and included use of sophisticated electronic surveillance techniques they would not further describe. They also would not say whether such surveillance was conducted inside the Pentagon itself, although it has involved at least one computer of Franklin's, they said.

The United States has strongly backed Israeli efforts to block nuclear development in Iran, with President Bush including Iran with Iraq and North Korea as part of an international "axis of evil."

Yet his administration has battled internally over how hard a line to take toward Iran. The State Department generally has advocated more moderate positions, while more conservative officials in the Defense Department and some at the White House's National Security Council have advocated tougher policies.

Sharon's government has pushed the Bush administration toward more toughness against Iran.

Israel in recent months has repeated expressed concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, with some senior officials accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons in violation of promises made to the United Nations. Last week, Iran threatened to destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear facilities.


Controversy's No Stranger to AIPAC

By William C Mann

WASHINGTON -- AIPAC, the Jewish lobbying juggernaut, operates in such high-stakes politics that it inevitably has been unable to avoid occasional unpleasantness. But almost universally, the largest pro-Israel lobby has found all the friends its has needed in Congress.

More often than not, the politician who tried to face down the American Israel Public Action Committee came out the worse for it.

In 1975, for example, President Ford was angered because Israel refused to end its eight-year occupation of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and ordered a reassessment of the United States' relationship with the Jewish state. Largely because of AIPAC, the move ended with 76 Senators reaffirming the special U.S.-Israeli bond.

Even friends in high places, however, have not made a perpetually smooth ride for AIPAC over the years.

The latest scrape came with word Friday [August 27, 2004] that FBI investigators suspect AIPAC has acted as middleman to funnel to Israel details of secret Bush administration deliberations about Iran, a murky assertion adamantly denied by the group.

Founded half a century ago, AIPAC claims 65,000 members -- in all 50 states -- and says its central mission is to support U.S. interests in the Middle East and to advocate for a strong relationship with Israel.

It has a hold on the mechanisms of power that has been called mystical. Douglas Bloomfield, a former legislative director of the organization, says it's more mundane than that.

"AIPAC is successful because it represents American national interests, and it works within the political forces," Bloomfield said Saturday in an interview.

On its Web site, AIPAC lists an agenda topped by this: "Stopping Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons."

The item says: "AIPAC works with Congress to enact even more comprehensive legislation to contain Iran and to expand U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation to build a defense against this threat."

Both Israel and AIPAC have denied the allegations that a Pentagon official has compromised U.S. policy deliberations about Iran to Israel. The Pentagon, where the purported leak originated, has said little except that the person being investigated was not in a policy-making position.

Even in its denial of any such activity, AIPAC gave no indication of second thoughts about its procedures or policies.

"As American citizens concerned about the enduring strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, AIPAC has and will continue to have discussions with policy-makers at all levels of government," the statement said.

"The right to petition our government is one of the fundamental rights of American citizens, which AIPAC members proudly exercise every day."

That they do. The organization says its representatives hold every year more than 2,000 meetings with members of Congress and guide through the legislative process more than 100 pro-Israel initiatives.

The organization's affinity with Congress has paid off handsomely over the decades, but during the 1980s new leaders turned away from relying almost totally on lobbying Congress to working with administrations as well. Conflict over which side would prevail was given then as a reason for Bloomfield's 1988 resignation as the Reagan administration was ending and the first President Bush was about to take office.

AIPAC was reeling from allegations that it had violated its nonpartisan mandate in that November's congressional elections and had mapped out a campaign [to] smear the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Also, signs of discord were emerging in Israel's all-important relationship with the United States. The Reagan administration had decided to deal for the first time with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, after Arafat declared his recognition that Israel had a right to exist.

"The partisanship that is perceived as creeping into AIPAC's decision-making will hurt them in the long run," then-Rep. Lawrence Smith, a Florida Democrat, said. "They have to understand that the real bedrock of support for Israel is the Congress. Administrations come and go. We're pretty constant and reliable."

AIPAC was at the time in a bitter campaign against a proposed Reagan administration arms sale to Saudi Arabia. That was one of the few such battles AIPAC lost, on a 52-48 Senate vote.

Analyst Who Is Target of Probe Went to Israel

By Thomas E. Ricks and Robin Wright

THE FBI investigation into whether classified information was passed to the Israeli government is focused on a Pentagon analyst who has served as an Air Force reservist in Israel, and the probe has been broadened in recent days to include interviews at the State and Defense departments and with Middle Eastern affairs specialists outside government, officials and others familiar with the inquiry said yesterday.

At the center of the investigation, sources said, is Lawrence A. Franklin, a career analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who specializes in Iran and has served in the Air Force Reserve, rising to colonel. Early in the Bush administration, Franklin moved from the DIA to the Pentagon's policy branch headed by Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, where he continued his work on Iranian affairs. Officials and colleagues said yesterday that Franklin had traveled to Israel, including during duty in the Air Force Reserve, where he served as a specialist in foreign political-military affairs. He may have been based at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on those tours, said a former co-worker at the DIA but was never permanently assigned there.

Messages left at Franklin's Pentagon office were not returned yesterday, and nobody answered the door at his house in West Virginia. FBI officials have been quietly investigating for months whether Franklin gave classified information -- which officials said included a draft of a presidential directive on U.S. policies toward Iran -- to two Israeli lobbyists here who are alleged to have passed it on to the Israeli government. Officials said it was not yet clear whether the probe would become an espionage case or perhaps would result in lesser charges such as improper release of classified information or mishandling of government documents.

On Friday, Pentagon officials said Franklin was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy. "The Defense Department has been cooperating with the Department of Justice for an extended period of time," a Pentagon statement said. "It is the DOD's understanding that the investigation within DOD is very limited in its scope." At the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington yesterday, people touched by the case said they were baffled by aspects of it. Colleagues said they were stunned to hear Franklin was suspected of giving secret information to a foreign government. And foreign policy specialists said they were skeptical that the pro-Israel group under FBI scrutiny, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, would jeopardize its work with classified documents from a midlevel bureaucrat when it could find out almost anything it wanted to by calling top officials in the Bush administration.

"The whole thing makes no sense to me," said Dennis Ross, special envoy on the Arab-Israeli peace process in the first Bush administration and the Clinton presidency. "The Israelis have access to all sorts of people. They have access in Congress and in the administration. They have people who talk about these things," said Ross, now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office yesterday issued a statement saying Israel was not involved in the matter and conducts no espionage in the United States. AIPAC has strongly denied any wrongdoing and said it is "cooperating fully" with the probe.

The FBI investigation was touched off months ago when a series of e-mails was brought to investigators' attention, said a U.S. official familiar with the case.

The investigation moved into high gear in recent days, another official said. On Friday, Justice Department officials briefed some Pentagon officials about the state of the inquiry. "I think they are at the end of their investigation and beginning to brief people in the chain of command, partly to make sure that the acts weren't authorized," one official said.

Pentagon co-workers expressed shock at the news. "It's totally astonishing to all of us who knew him," said a Defense Department co-worker who asked not to be identified by name because of the investigation. "He is a career guy, a mild-mannered professional. No one would think of him as evil or devious."

Franklin works in the office of William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. For years a bureaucratic backwater, the office has been in the thick of the action since 2001 because it formulates Pentagon policy on Iraq. It played a central role as the U.S. military prepared for the spring 2003 invasion and since then as the Pentagon has overseen the occupation.

Luti's office is part of the policy operation under Feith.

NetanyahuFeith has been a controversial figure in U.S.-Israeli affairs since the mid-1990s, when he was part of a study group of American conservatives, then out of government, who urged Israel's then prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, (right), to abandon the Oslo peace accords and reject the basis for them -- that Israel should give up land in exchange for peace.

More recently, Feith has been a target of criticism from Democrats who claim that two offices in his branch -- the Office of Special Plans, headed by Luti, and the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group -- sought to manipulate intelligence to improve the Bush administration's case for war against Iraq.

House and Senate intelligence committee investigators found no evidence for allegations that the Pentagon offices tried to bypass the CIA or had a major impact on the prewar debate. But in the Senate panel's report on prewar intelligence, three Democratic senators -- John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), Carl M. Levin (Mich.), and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) -- specifically criticized Feith's operation. In Kearneysville, W.Va., about 80 miles from the Pentagon, neighbors of the Franklins interviewed yesterday said they did not know the family well. Though nobody answered the door, voices were heard in the house, which had a "God Bless Our Troops" sticker and an American flag in the window.

People who know Franklin from different phases of his life offered contrasting accounts of his political views.

A U.S. government official familiar with the investigation said Franklin was very outwardly supportive of Israel, for example. But a former co-worker at the DIA disputed that characterization, saying that he did not recall in years of working with him any strong political statements about Israel or anything else. Franklin, he said, was a solid, competent analyst specializing in Iranian political affairs, especially the views of top leaders and the course of opposition movements.

In February 2000, Franklin wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal's European edition that was sharply critical of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, arguing that the leader was launching a "charm offensive" that was simply a "ruse" to make the Iranian government look better to Westerners while it continued to abuse human rights.

Details of Franklin's Air Force service, and especially his time in Israel, could not be learned yesterday. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment.

In Israel yesterday, Sharon's office issued a statement. "Israel does not engage in intelligence activities in the U.S. We deny all these reports," the statement said, according to the Associated Press. That followed a strong statement Friday by the Israeli Embassy in Washington denying any wrongdoing.

One Israeli official familiar with the situation said yesterday that his government had checked "every organ here" to make sure that no part of government was involved. "We checked everything possible, and there's absolutely nothing. It's a nonevent, from the Israeli point of view. Someone leaked this to [hurt] . . . the president, AIPAC and the Jews on the eve of the Republican convention," he speculated.

He added that Israel would not have been involved in such activities, "because we have a trauma here in Israel. It's called Pollard."

PollardThat was a reference to the case in which a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan J. Pollard, left, admitted in 1987 to selling state secrets to Israel. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and Israeli officials have said since then they do not conduct espionage against the United States. At AIPAC, spokesman Josh Block said the organization had no comment yesterday beyond its Friday statement that the organization and its employees denied any wrongdoing and were cooperating with the government. A former AIPAC employee also said he was baffled by the news of the FBI investigation. "I have a hard time figuring out what this is about," he said. If the Israelis or their supporters want to know about deliberations in the Bush administration, he said, "all they have to do is take people to lunch."

Others in Washington, however, maintained that Israel does present a problem for the United States in certain aspects of intelligence, such as sensitive defense technologies and Iran policy.

Israel sees Iran as the single biggest threat to its existence, and so closely monitors all possible moves in Washington's Iranian policy -- especially as the Bush administration presses Tehran to disclose more about the state of its nuclear program. One former State Department officer recalled being told that U.S. government experts considered the countries whose spying most threatened the United States were Russia, South Korea and Israel. "I also know from my time in Jerusalem that official U.S. visitors to Israel were warned about the counterintelligence threat from Israel," he said.

Taking a slightly different view, others speculated that the very closeness of the relationship between the United States and Israeli governments -- and especially the tight connections between the Israelis and Feith's policy office -- may have led officials to become sloppy about rules barring release of sensitive information.

Staff writers John Ward Anderson in Jerusalem, Dan Eggen, Amit R. Paley, Steven Ginsberg and Jerry Markon in Washington and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Friday, August 27, 2004

AIPAC Statement on Recent Events

Today, AIPAC learned that the government is investigating an employee of the Department of Defense for possible violations in handling confidential information. News stations tonight reported that the investigation centers around a supposed "mole" in the Department of Defense who allegedly disseminated internal White House policy deliberations on Iran to Israel through two AIPAC staff members.

Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or our employees is false and baseless. Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified.

AIPAC is cooperating fully with the governmental authorities. It has provided documents and information to the government and has made staff available for interviews. We will continue to offer our full cooperation and are confident that the government will find absolutely no wrongdoing by our organization and its employees.

AIPAC is an American organization comprised of proud and loyal U.S. citizens committed to promoting American interests. We take our responsibilities as American citizens seriously. We do not condone or tolerate any violation of U.S. law or interests, and we have and will continue to follow the law in all its facets.

As American citizens concerned about the enduring strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, AIPAC has and will continue to have discussions with policymakers at all levels of government. The right to petition our government is one of the fundamental rights of American citizens, which AIPAC members proudly exercise every day.

We will not let any innuendo or false allegation against AIPAC distract us from our central mission-supporting America's interests in the Middle East and advocating for a strong relationship with Israel.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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