"Weapons of Mass Deception"


FBI probes Israeli link to a Pentagon official

James Risen NYT Sunday, August 29, 2004
Investigation involves policy on Iran

WASHINGTON The FBI is in contact with a Pentagon official suspected of passing secrets to Israel and is seeking to gain his cooperation in its investigation, government officials said.The Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, a midlevel analyst who works in the policy office of the Defense Department, has been in contact with investigators with the FBI, officials said. It could not be learned whether he was talking with the bureau directly or through a lawyer.Government officials say they suspect that Franklin provided classified documents to officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, and that the group in turn handed the materials over to Israeli intelligence. Both the lobbying group and the Israeli government have denied any misconduct. Franklin could not be located for comment.Government officials who have been briefed on the investigation said the FBI had unspecified evidence that Franklin provided the Israelis with a sensitive report about American policy toward Iran, along with other materials. Franklin focused on Iranian issues in his work.No arrests have been made in the case, however, and the FBI apparently is seeking more information from Franklin. The investigation has been going on for more than a year, government officials said.The work done in the Pentagon's policy offices often involves regional strategic planning like deliberations on what stance the government should take in dealing with other countries. A little more than a year ago, one policy advocated by Pentagon officials would have relied on covert support for Iranian resistance groups to destabilize Iran's powerful clergy. In internal deliberations, some even raised the possibility of a military strike against an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz.American policy toward Iran is now of critical importance to Israel, which is increasingly concerned by evidence that Tehran has accelerated its program to develop a nuclear weapon. The Bush administration has become concerned that Israel might move militarily against Iran's nuclear complex.A government official who has been briefed on the investigation said that FBI officials had earlier expressed an interest in interviewing two of Franklin's superiors, Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, although there is no sign that they are a focus of the investigation. It could not be learned whether the FBI had decided to go ahead with those interviews.Former government officials have also been contacted by the FBI in recent days, apparently in an effort to gain a better understanding of the relationships among conservative officials with strong ties to Israel.Feith and the work done under him have been the focus of intense criticism over the past year as questions have mounted about the justification for the war in Iraq. Before the war, Feith created a small intelligence unit that sought to build a case for Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, an effort that has since been disputed by the CIA.Questions have also repeatedly been raised about work done by members of Feith's staff that skirted the normal bureaucracy. For example, Franklin participated in secret meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian who had acted as a middleman in arms deals in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration.The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said that it was "cooperating fully with the governmental authorities" and had "provided documents and information to the government and has made staff available for interviews."One of the group's priorities is stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear arms and other unconventional weapons. The 65,000-member group has long been regarded as one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, cultivating close ties in Republican and Democratic administrations alike.Current and former defense officials said Saturday that Franklin worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency until about three years ago, when he moved to the Pentagon's policy office, headed by Feith, to work on Iran and other Middle East issues.Former colleagues said that Franklin was a Soviet analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who transferred to the Middle East division in the early 1990s. He learned Farsi and became an Iran analyst, developing extensive contacts among Iranians who opposed the Tehran government."He was a good analyst of the Iranian political scene, but he was also someone who would go off on his own," said one former defense colleague.The New York Times

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Milton Frihetsson, 17:48


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