December 9, 2004
steps up AIPAC probe
By Richard Sale
WASHINGTON -- An FBI
investigation into alleged Israeli espionage
against the United States and the possibility a
pro-Israel lobby group was involved in passing
classified U.S data to Tel Aviv has intensified
because a confessed Pentagon spy
stopped cooperating with
federal law enforcement officials, U.S.
government sources said.
Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst in
the Near East and South Asia office who worked
for the Defense Department's Office of Special
Plans confessed last August to federal agents he
had held meetings with a contact from the
Israeli government during which he passed a
highly classified document on U.S. policy toward
Iran, these sources said. The document advocated
support for Iranian dissidents, covert actions
to destabilize the Iranian government, arming
opponents of the Islamic regime, propaganda
broadcasts into Iran, and other programs, these
The FBI was also
interested in finding out if Franklin was
involved or could name any Pentagon
colleagues who were involved in passing to
Israel certain data about National Security
Agency intercepts, these sources said.
Franklin was caught quite by accident last
summer as part of a larger investigation, these
In 2001, the FBI discovered
new, "massive" Israeli
spying operations in the East Coast,
including New York and New Jersey, said one
former senior U.S. government official. The FBI
began intensive surveillance on certain Israeli
diplomats and other suspects and was videotaping
Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at
the Israeli Embassy in Washington, who was
having lunch at a Washington hotel with two
lobbyists from the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee lobby group. Federal law
enforcement officials said they were floored
when Franklin came up to their table and sat
The FBI confronted Franklin in August 2004,
and there seemed to be progress on the case, but
after Franklin hired Washington lawyer Plato
Cacheris, Franklin's cooperation abruptly
ceased, federal law enforcement officials said.
The turnabout apparently infuriated the FBI,
former federal law enforcement officials said.
Franklin could not be reached for comment.
Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA
counter-terrorism chief, who has good ties with
law enforcement officials said, "The FBI was
An FBI consultant told United Press
International: "The FBI were hopping mad. The
FBI had been kicked very hard in their macho.
They are very, very macho."
On Dec. 1, FBI agents visited the AIPAC
offices in Washington and seized the hard drives
and files of Steven Rosen, director of
research, and Keith Weissman, deputy
director of foreign policy issues.
The FBI also served subpoenas on AIPAC
Executive Director Howard Kohr, Managing
Director Richard Fishman, Communications
Director Renee Rothstein, and Research
Director Raphael Danziger.
All are suspected of having acted as "cut
outs" or intermediaries who passed highly
sensitive U.S. data from high-level Pentagon and
administration officials to Israel, said one
former federal law enforcement official.
One current FBI
consultant said Rosen's name had first been
given to the FBI in 1986, along with 70
possible incidents of Israeli espionage
against the United States. No action was
taken against him, this source said. Rosen's
attorney did not return phone calls.
AIPAC has consistently denied any wrongdoing
in the affair. In a public statement, the group
said its continuing access to the White House
and senior administration officials would be
"inconceivable...if any shred of evidence of
disloyalty or even negligence on AIPAC's part"
had been discovered.
At the time of Franklin's arrest, Israeli
Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, repeated his
government's denials, saying on CNN: "I can tell
you here, very authoritatively, very
categorically, Israel does not spy on the United
Another Israeli government statement referred
to America as "a deeply cherished ally."
But a former federal law enforcement official
said Israeli spying against the United States
had been "widespread" for many years, and that
during the Cold War, Israeli penetration of U.S.
operations was second "only to the Soviet
"Few people realize
that the Israeli Counterintelligence Desk at
the Bureau was second in size only to the CI
Soviet desk," he said.
A former very senior CIA counterintelligence
official told UPI that in 1998-99, the CIA
discovered an Israeli couple, who were
subcontracted to a U.S. phone company, were
working for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence
"They did incredible damage -- they got
incredibly sensitive data, including key words
identifying individuals or projects," this
source said, adding he himself gave the case to
Perhaps the most notorious Israeli operation
was the recruitment of Jonathan
Jay Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst,
who was convicted in U.S. federal court and
sentenced to life in prison for selling military
documents to Israel. UPI reported in 1987,
quoting FBI officials, the FBI had traced stolen
Pollard data up into the Eastern Bloc where it
was traded in return for the Soviet Union
raising the emigration of Soviet Jews to