"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Larry Franklin

Lawrence Franklin

is an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who works in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. He reports directly to Feith's deputy, William Luti and specializes in Iranian policy issues. [1]

Franklin was a Soviet analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who transferred to the Middle East division in the early 1990's. He learned Farsi and became an Iran analyst, developing extensive contacts among Iranians who opposed the Tehran government. [2]
Franklin also has a military background. Franklin was a colonel in the Air Force Reserve who served two short tours at the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv. [3]
Allegations of Espionage
On August 29th 2004, it was reported that Franklin is under investigation for allegedly spying for the state of Israel [4] [5] [6]. According to an article in Haaretz, Franklin is not Jewish himself [7].
Franklin allegedley offered highly classified draft documents regarding the United States policy towards Iran to two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The two AIPAC Iran analysts, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have retained a well known criminal defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, for counsel.[8]
Attorney General John Ashcroft assigned highly partisan Republican U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty to the espionage case. Charges of espionage were expected to be downgraded to charges of mishandling classified information.
Franklin's security clearance was revoked in June 2004.
Secret Meetings with Iran-Contra Arms Dealers
Beginning in 2001, Franklin and Harold Rhode (Feith's top specialist on the Middle East) held secret meetings in Rome with Iran-Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. These meetings were arranged by longtime Republican operative Michael Ledeen.
The Washington Monthly claimed the intent of these meetings was clear: "regime change" in Iran:
"The DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself."
"According to U.S. government sources, both the State Department and the CIA eventually brought the matter to the attention of the White House -- specifically, to Condoleezza Rice's chief deputy on the National Security Council, Stephen J. Hadley...Hadley sent word to the officials in Feith's office and to Ledeen to cease all such activities.
An anonymous senior administration official quoted by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service said that the immediate objective of the Pentagon hawks appeared to be to "antagonise Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden U.S. policy against them."
Disinfopedia resources
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Douglas Feith
Harold Rhode
Manucher Ghorbanifar
External links
Justin Raimondo, "The Axis of Treason; Israeli spies in the Pentagon", 30 August 2004
Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris, "Iran-Contra II?", The Washington Monthly, September 2004
Craig Gordon, "Pentagon hawks, Iran-Contra scam dealer hold talks", Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, September 8, 2003.
"Profile: Larry Franklin", Center for Cooperative Research, undated.
James Risen "F.B.I. Said to Reach Official Suspected of Passing Secrets", The New York Times, August 29, 2004
Juan Cole "Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on Iran", August 29, 2004
Barry O'Connell Franklin Spy Scandal Spreads to The Whitehouse".

Here is an overview of the spyscandal :

Spies and / or Victims
by Hichem Karoui
(Wednesday 01 September 2004)
"Either some party is fooling the others, or they are, all of them, fooling each other."
The case of Lawrence A. Franklin, the Pentagon’s official, recently accused of espionage for the account of Israel, necessarily brings to our minds the case of Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst, who in 1985 was arrested and convicted of spying for Israel too. The case is thus neither unique nor exceptional. And one cannot but state that if the American Court did not find any evidence of Pollard 's guilt, it would never have sentenced him to spending the rest of his life “in the shade».
Of course, the United States of America is the closest friend to Israel, and the main funds’ backer which finances the Israeli machine, as everybody knows. Yet, theses facts seemingly do not prevent the Israelis from spying and blackmailing the “most cherished friend and ally”, as Mr. David Siegel (Israeli ambassador to Washington) depicted the relationship. America has always been attracting the Jews from the entire world, and there is no other country on earth gathering the same number of Jews except Israel itself. To be sure, America’s Jews are not all necessarily convinced Zionists. The fact is that many Jews hate Zionism and consider it a big lie aiming at their extirpation from their original countries. But Zionism - as Herzl predicted - is nourished by the anti-Semitism and whenever the pressure on the Jews increases anywhere in the world, their loyalty to their countries becomes threatened by their attraction to Israel.
Mr. Larry Franklin is not Jewish, but he is accused by the FBI of passing classified information to the Israeli government, related to American policy toward Iran. Franklin has served as an Air Force reservist in Israel, where he served also as a specialist in foreign political-military affairs, and was reportedly based in the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. He has been since working in the Pentagon’s policy offices, under the orders of Mr. Douglas Feith under-secretary of defense for policy, and involved with regional strategic planning.
FBI officials have been quietly investigating for the last months whether Franklin’s connections with the Israelis were of a nature that pushed him to pass some sensitive information, since it was known how anxious the Israelis have grown about the Iranian nuclear business. Franklin may be of a particular interest to them in this context. He participated, for example, in secret meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian who had acted as an arms deal middleman in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration. According to the New York Times , the “ secret meetings were first held in Rome in December 2001 and were brokered by Mr. Ledeen. He said he arranged the meetings to put the Bush administration in closer contact with Iranian dissidents who could provide information in the war on terrorism” .
As a matter of fact, the Iranian affairs have grown to be recently an important issue of the struggle between Democrats and Republicans, as are also usually the relations with Israel. Then, some political aspects should be considered.
1). – Franklin works under the responsibility of D. Feith. The latter has been a target of Democrat’s criticism since, as an element of a study group of American Conservatives in the mid-1990s, he has urged then Israel’s Prime Minister, B. Netanyahu, “ to abandon the Oslo peace and reject the basis for them”. Then more recently, the Democrats accused Feith of trying to manipulate intelligence to improve the Bush administration’s case for war against Iraq. However, House and Senate intelligence Committee investigators found no evidence for the accusations.
2). – During this presidential campaign, we see Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, charging the Bush administration of abdicating responsibility for the Iranian nuclear threat to the Europeans. Mr. Kerry first outlined the idea of providing nuclear fuel to Iran in a speech in June – a proposal reportedly favored by many Europeans- but Edwards, who twice described the concept as a bargain, was more explicit in suggesting the Kerry administration would actively try to reach an agreement with the Iranians.
This is the political context of the Franklin’s case. A context apparently marked by an important debate inside the USA, as well as in Europe (and with it), in Israel (and with it), about how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. Maybe this background suggests that Larry Franklin is just a scapegoat in a game that bypasses him. Nevertheless, there are other cases making his own not that amazing for the investigators and the public as well. A little memory’s refreshing would perhaps help the understanding:
In 1985, U.S.-Israeli relations were rocked by two spy cases. Richard K. Smyth was indicted in California for illegally exporting 800 Krytons to an Israeli company. Krytons are high-speed electronic switches that can be used to detonate nuclear weapons. Israel claimed that it was not aware of needed export licenses for the devices. Smyth jumped bail in 1985 but was arrested by Spanish authorities in July 2001.
Smyth was extradited to the United States in November 2001, pleaded guilty in December, and was sentenced to 40 months in prison in April 2002.
On November 21, 1985, Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. naval intelligence employee, and his wife Ann Pollard were charged with selling classified documents to Israel for $2,500 per month over an 18-month period. The Israeli government said the spy network, headed by former Israeli intelligence officer Raphael Eitan, was a renegade operation. In March 1987, Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and his wife to two consecutive five-year terms. Four Israelis were also indicted, including Israeli Air Force Col. Aviem Sella. Israel promoted both Sella and Eitan, although Sella’s command of a major air base and promotion were rescinded after negative U.S. reactions. Israelis continue to complain that Pollard received an excessively harsh sentence. Ann Pollard was released in 1990, and moved to Israel where she divorced Jonathan Pollard. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in January 1996. It should be noticed also that Israel sought Pollard’s release as part of the 1998 Wye negotiations with the Palestinians.
In addition to the Smyth and Pollard cases, U.S. Customs agents raided three U.S. companies on December 12, 1985, to seize materials describing a metallurgical process for tank guns that were being transferred illegally to Israel. In another case, three Israelis were arrested on April 22, 1986, for conspiring to sell arms to Iran. On May 15, 1986, two Israelis were arrested in New York on another weapons selling scheme. On July 8, 1986, U.S. Customs agents searched three U.S. companies for information about a plan to transfer technical information for cluster bombs to Israel. An Illinois company said on August 8, 1986, that Israelis tried to steal data on aerial reconnaissance cameras. Israel denied any connection with any of these cases. In February 1997, an engineer at a military testing facility in Michigan admitted that he had “inadvertently” given classified materials to Israel over a ten-year period. Press reports in early May 2000 said that Israeli intelligence had tapped into White House and State Department communications, but a later FBI investigation cleared Israel.
Now, would the FBI dare to charge an American official without evidence? This is the important question. The investigators have even interviewed the under-secretary of state, Douglas Feith as well as Mr. Paul Wolfowitz. Would they really make both men waste their time without a sound argument?
Despite that, there are still strong defenders of Larry Franklin, not only his stunned colleagues, but also personalities like Dennis Ross, special envoy on the Arab-Israeli peace process in the first Bush administration and the Clinton presidency. He said: “ 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...” Mr. Yval Steinitz, the chairman of the foreign and defense committee in Parliament, is “ 100 percent confident – not 99 percent, but 100 percent- that Israel is not spying in the United States”. And this is, of course, what Sharon 's office says also. Thus, the agreement is quite complete and harmonious between Steinitz and the Israelis.
The fact is that he is perhaps not mistaken, since the activity of Aipac is quite legitimate whereas its connections to the Mossad cannot be ignored. And as we know, the espionage is precisely an illegitimate activity. Thereupon, how can we possibly reconcile between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate? And since Mr. Franklin is suspected and charged of passing sensitive classified information about the US policy toward Iran to AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby group, which in turn is thought to have provided it to Israeli intelligence, then the American justice Department should logically suspend – first - the activity of Aipac as being not conformed with the law, so that the espionage charge becomes possible on these grounds. Otherwise, even if it is true that Larry Franklin provided Aipac with classified information, what makes Aipac innocent and he guilty? The espionage crime is not an act that one can perform alone. To be a real crime, it must involve at least three parties: 1) That from which the information has been stolen (the victim: here the USA government). 2) That for which the information has been stolen. (The instigator or the buyer. Here the Israeli government, with Aipac’s kind mediation). 3) The agent who stole the information (Mr. Franklin). Without the existence of these parties, nothing can make a case worth an investigation.
Now, we must be aware that we are here talking about a powerful, legitimate organization (AIPAC), with 65 000 members in the USA. Who among them, or among the American officials, ignore the relationship between AIPAC and the Israeli intelligence? If they do – and they do – where is the mistake? Is it lying with L. Franklin who, like many other American officials, deals with Aipac and give and take information? Or is it lying with Aipac, which takes what it is given and passes it to the Israeli boss? Or is it rather lying with the American government, which knows very well what are AIPAC’s activities and aims, and tries to play the part of the naive and claims to be surprised?
Either some party is fooling the others, or they are, all of them, fooling each other. And like so many cases of this kind, we see rarely any party acknowledging its mistakes and recognizing its crimes, because in the espionage world there are neither responsibilities nor responsible people, neither chiefs nor subordinates, and most of all nobody knows the other when they are discovered. They may be working together, hand in hand, for years, but in total darkness. That’s why, when someone switch on the lights, and they see each other and what they have just been doing, they run away and deny everything. And while trying to repair the unredeemable, they may sometimes need a scapegoat. Thus, anyone of them – rarely the powerful, though – may pass from the status of agent in activity to that of victim in custody.

Mole Hunt
An expert on U.S.–Israeli relations reveals details from his recent visit with the FBI.

By Jason Vest and Laura RozenWeb Exclusive: 09.03.04

In May, Stephen Green was hard at work campaigning for a seat in Vermont's House of Representatives when he got a phone call. The last person the 64-year-old former United Nations official, then preoccupied with health-care policy issues, expected to hear from was an FBI agent, who asked if he could come to Washington to chat with him about the history of Israeli espionage efforts against the United States.
As the author of two books on U.S.-Israeli relations, Green knew something about the subject. Still, the phone call seemed to come out of the blue. Green quickly discovered, however, that the FBI had a keen interest in the subject. Federal agents were involved in an investigation into an alleged Israeli "mole" in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.
Early reports suggested that the FBI had wiretap evidence that a veteran Iran analyst working in Feith's office at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Larry Franklin, may have passed a classified draft of a National Security Presidential Directive on Iran to an official working for the pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Members of the organization, in turn, were said to have passed the document on to Israel. (AIPAC officials strongly deny the accusations.)
But as Green spoke with investigators, he realized the agents were investigating far more than Franklin.
"Larry Franklin's name never came up, but several others did," he said.
Green, as the FBI agents knew, had a special expertise in the field of Israeli espionage in the United States. In the 1980s, he had taken time off from his job at the UN to look into the U.S.–Israeli "special relationship." He spent years combing through public records, filing and litigating Freedom of Information Act requests, and tracking down current and retired government officials. He eventually wrote two books, Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations With Israel and Living By The Sword: America and Israel in the Middle East. The Times of London and Foreign Affairs commended his work, describing it as "praised by those who believe the United States has damaged its own security, and Israel's too, by uncritical and often secret support of Israel's actions, no matter how extreme." Yet, as Foreign Affairs reported, Green's work also caused "sputter[ing] with indignation" among "those who believe… that American and Israeli interests are identical."
Green returned to the UN in 1990 and followed the subject from there. Earlier this year, he published a piece in the newsletter CounterPunch, recapping previously reported -- though long-forgotten -- government investigations of prominent neoconservatives for their suspected espionage or improper information-sharing with Israel. And that's where the FBI comes in.
According to the FBI agents who contacted Green, as he recounts, the article had come to their attention when one of Green’s sources -- a retired national security official they were interviewing -- shared it with them.
And so on June 22, Green found himself sitting across an oval-shaped conference table from two FBI agents at an undisclosed northern Virginia venue. The meeting lasted nearly four hours.
"They were extraordinarily well-informed; it was apparent they've been at this for awhile," Green says. "I asked them if there was a current reason for them asking questions about things that go back over 30 years, and they sort of looked at each other and said, 'Yes, it's a present issue,' but wouldn't say specifically what. Though they did ask very specific questions about one individual in particular."
Green said the agents asked about several current or former Pentagon officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, and Stephen Bryen.
"The tenor of their questions was such that it defined where these people were in terms of the nature of their focus," Green says. "They also asked about a couple other Office of Special Plans people, including Harold Rhode. Ironically, about the only name that didn't come up was Larry Franklin."
Regardless of the status of the investigation, something seemed a bit fishy. After all, Israel -- one of the United States’ closest allies, with deep support in the Bush Administration and especially at the Defense Department -- hardly needs a Pentagon-embedded spy to get access to interagency debates about U.S. policy to Iran, as observers have pointed out. And compared with the information on arms shipments that former US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard passed on to Israel in the 1980s, a draft of a document about U.S. policy toward Iran would hardly seem like the crown jewels.
Yet, as Newsweek has reported, Franklin had come to the FBI’s attention a year and a half ago, when he walked in on a lunch with an Israeli diplomat and an AIPAC lobbyist, both of whom were under FBI surveillance for a year. In addition, Newsweek reported that when news of the investigation surfaced, Franklin had already been cooperating with the FBI for several weeks and had reportedly led FBI agents to those who may have received information from him.
The previous FBI investigation came into focus only on September 1, when The Washington Post reported that for two years, the FBI has conducted a counterintelligence investigation into whether AIPAC has forwarded “highly classified materials from the National Security Agency . . . to Israel.” The Post piece describes Franklin’s alleged role as merely “coincidental” to the larger FBI probe of alleged intelligence-passing through AIPAC to Israel.
Both AIPAC and Tel Aviv vehemently deny any wrongdoing. And indeed, the Israeli diplomat who acknowledges meeting with Franklin and AIPAC -- Naor Gilon, the Israeli embassy’s No. 3 official and a specialist on Iran’s nuclear program -- returned to Washington on August 29 from a summer vacation in Israel. He admits that he met with Franklin, but insists he’s done nothing wrong.
A source familiar with the investigation told The American Prospect that when news of the investigation broke, the Justice Department had been preparing a request to the State Department to have an Israeli diplomat -- by implication Gilon -- declared persona non grata for allegedly having received classified U.S. intelligence from AIPAC sources.
Furthermore, a September 1 report by NBC speculated that the reason the Israelis may have broken their declared post-Pollard policy of not spying on the United States is because of Israel’s preeminent concern about Iran’s nuclear program, and its view that the United States may not be prepared to act assertively enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The Post piece seems to imply that Franklin is more of an anti-Tehran zealot than anything else and wasn’t engaging in espionage per se. But as the Post article and the June meeting between Green and the FBI seem to indicate, the FBI is looking into the possibility there's been communication between Israeli elements and U.S. officials, including several who work for Feith and have access to sensitive intelligence on Iran and its nuclear program.
Jason Vest is Prospect senior correspondent. Laura Rozen reports on national security issues from Washington, D.C. and for her weblog, War and Piece.
Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc

Cloak and Swagger
The Larry Franklin spy probe reveals an escalating fight over control of Iran policy.

By Laura Rozen and Jason VestIssue Date: 11.02.04

To Washington’s small and sometimes fractious community of Iran experts, it was becoming obvious: What to do about Iran and its fast-developing nuclear program was set to rival Iraq as the most pressing foreign-policy challenge for the person elected president in 2004. By the spring and early summer of this year, the city was awash in rival Iran task forces and conferences. Some recommended that Washington engage in negotiations with Tehran’s mullahs on the nuclear issue; they drew scorn from the other side, which preached regime change or military strikes.
In late July, as this debate raged, a Pentagon analyst named Larry Franklin telephoned an acquaintance who worked at a pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The two men knew each other professionally from their long involvement in the Washington Iran and Iraq policy debates. A Brooklyn-born Catholic father of five who put himself through school, earning a doctorate, as an Air Force reservist, Franklin had served as a Soviet intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency until about a decade ago, when he learned Farsi and became an Iran specialist. At their July meeting, Franklin told the AIPAC employee about his frustration that the U.S. government wasn’t responding aggressively enough to intelligence about hostile Iranian activities in Iraq. As Franklin explained it, Iran had sent all of its Arabic-speaking Iranian agents to southern Iraq, was orchestrating attacks on Iraqi state oil facilities, and had sent other agents to northern Iraq to kill Israelis believed to be operating there. Iran had also transferred its top operative for Afghanistan to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. The move, Franklin implied, signified Tehran’s intention to cause more trouble in Iraq.
A couple of weeks after this meeting, in mid-August, the AIPAC official was visited by two FBI agents, who asked him about Franklin. From the line of questioning, it wasn’t clear to the AIPAC official whether Franklin was being investigated by the FBI for possible wrongdoing or if he was simply the subject of a routine background investigation for renewal of his security clearance.
But on August 27, when CBS broke the story that the FBI was close to arresting an alleged “Israeli mole” in the office of the Pentagon’s No. 3 official, Douglas Feith, it became clear that Franklin was in trouble. News reports said that the FBI had evidence that Franklin had passed a classified draft national-security presidential directive (NSPD) on Iran to AIPAC. What’s more, reports said, the FBI wasn’t just interested in Franklin. For the past two years, it had been conducting a counterintelligence probe into whether AIPAC had served as a conduit for U.S. intelligence to Israel, an investigation about which National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was briefed shortly after the Bush administration came into office.
In the flurry of news reports that followed, the scope of the FBI investigation seemed potentially enormous. Citing senior U.S. officials, The Washington Post reported that “the FBI is examining whether highly classified material from the National Security Agency … was also forwarded to Israel,” and that the investigation of Franklin was “coincidental” to that broader FBI probe. Time magazine reported that Franklin had been enlisted by the FBI to place a series of monitored telephone calls (scripted by the FBI) to get possible evidence on others, including allies of Ahmad Chalabi, a favorite of Pentagon neoconservatives. Chalabi was alleged to have told his Iranian intelligence contacts that the United States had broken their communications codes -- a breach that prompted a break in U.S. support for Chalabi last spring -- and the FBI wanted to know who had shared that highly classified information with Chalabi. What’s more, an independent expert on Israeli espionage said he had been interviewed by the FBI in June and in several follow-up calls, and that the scope of the senior FBI investigators’ questioning was broad and extremely detailed.
In the wake of the first news reports, AIPAC strongly denied that any of its employees had ever knowingly received classified U.S. information. Israel also categorically denied that it had conducted intelligence operations against the United States since the case of Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987.
At the time the CBS report aired in late August -- incidentally, on the Friday evening before the opening of the Republican national convention -- custody of the Franklin investigation was being transferred from the head of the FBI counterintelligence unit, David Szady, to U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, a Bush appointee, in Alexandria, Virginia, as the case moved to the grand-jury phase.
And then, in mid-September, news of the Franklin investigation went dark.
* * *
The classified document that Franklin allegedly passed to AIPAC concerned a controversial proposal by Pentagon hard-liners to destabilize Iran. The latest iteration of the national-security presidential directive was drafted by a Pentagon civilian and avid neocon, Michael Rubin, who hoped it would be adopted as official policy by the Bush administration. But in mid-June, Bush’s national-security advisers canceled consideration of the draft, partly in response to resistance from some at the State Department and the National Security Council, according to a recent memo written by Rubin and obtained by The American Prospect. No doubt also contributing to the administration’s decision was the swelling insurgency and chaos of postwar Iraq.
Rubin, in his early 30s, is a relative newcomer to the neoconservative circles in which he is playing an increasingly prominent role. Once the Iraq and Iran desk officer in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and later a Coalition Provisional Authority adviser in Iraq, these days the Yale-educated Ph.D. hangs his hat at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and serves as editor for controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes’ magazine, The Middle East Quarterly.
In an article published in the Republican-oriented quarterly Ripon Forum in June, Rubin suggests that the administration resolve its Iran waffling by turning against the current regime. “In 1953 and 1979,” he wrote, “Washington supported an unpopular Iranian government against the will of the people. The United States should not make the same mistake three times.” In other words, President Bush should step up his public condemnation of the Iranian regime and break off all contact with it in hopes of spurring a swelling of the Iranian pro-democracy movement. In short, Rubin, like his fellow Iran hawks, urges the administration to make regime change in Iran its official policy.
This invocation of “moral clarity” has a long intellectual pedigree among neoconservatives. It’s the same argument they made to Ronald Reagan about the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago. “If we could bring down the Soviet empire by inspiring and supporting a small percentage of the people,” Michael Ledeen, a chief neoconservative advocate of regime change in Iran and freedom scholar at AEI, recently wrote in the National Review, “surely the chances of successful revolution in Iran are more likely.”
Was it to this end that Franklin was allegedly observed by the FBI passing the draft NSPD on Iran to AIPAC? Was he trying to inform AIPAC, or Israel, about the contents of the draft NSPD? Or rather, and perhaps more plausibly, was he trying to enlist the powerful Washington lobbying organization in advocating for a Iran-destabilization policy? In other words, is the Franklin case really about espionage, or is it a glimpse into the ugly sausage-making process by which Middle East policy gets decided in Washington and, in particular, in the Bush administration?
* * *
Arguably past the apogee of its power, AIPAC nonetheless remains one of Washington’s most influential organizations. Successor to the Eisenhower-era American Zionist Council of Public Affairs, AIPAC came into its own during the Reagan years, thanks largely to the efforts of former Executive Director Thomas Dine. When Dine assumed his post in 1981, the organization had an annual budget of a little more than $1 million, about two dozen employees, and 8,000 members; when he left in 1993, a budget of $15 million was being administered by a staff of 158, and the committee had 50,000 members.
An assiduous networker and fund-raiser, Dine also quickly became indispensable to the Reagan White House as a promoter of various neoconservative foreign-policy initiatives. He also forged alliances between AIPAC and other interests, including the Christian right. (Another former AIPAC executive director, Morris Amitay, has long been active in neoconservative ventures, as both a business partner to Feith and Richard Perle and co-founder, with Michael Ledeen, of the Coalition for Democracy in Iran.) By the mid-’80s, AIPAC had been a prime mover in the defeat or crippling of initiatives and legislators not to its liking, and the passage of billions in grants to Israel. It had also taken on an increasingly pro-Republican (and pro-Likud) tilt.
While many regarded AIPAC’s power as lessened during the Clinton administration, since 2001 AIPAC has been powerful enough that even the Bush administration couldn’t get the committee and its congressional allies to tone down language in a 2002 resolution in support of Israeli military actions against the Palestinians. AIPAC’s 2002 annual conference included 50 senators, 90 representatives, and more than a dozen senior administration officials; this year’s conclave boasted President Bush himself, plus House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and an array of State and Defense department officials.
But while AIPAC is a powerhouse, it is not clear that it would have been the perfect vehicle for the kind of Iran-destabilization lobbying that some in Washington have been pushing. There are a wide variety of Israeli positions on how to deal with Iran. Many of Washington’s Middle East hands who are pro-Israel believe destabilization will not likely succeed, and they fear it will not deal with what they consider the real threat from Iran: nuclear weapons.
“If you mean trying to promote the peaceful overthrow of the regime in Iran, I think the prospects for success are highly uncertain,” says Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank. Pro-Israel activists in Washington want to make sure that the United States considers Iran’s nuclear program first and foremost an American problem, the response to which could include, if necessary, air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran’s nuclear program, one such activist recently told the Prospect, “has to be seen as Washington’s problem.”
There are other competing positions within the Israel-policy community. One Israeli official in Washington this summer for diplomatic meetings discussed regime change in Iran with a reporter from The American Prospect on the condition that his identity not be disclosed. He believes that Iran is ripe for democratic revolution, that it has one of the most pro-Western populations in the region, and that Iranian opposition forces would be electrified by a vigorous show of U.S. presidential support. But he believes that any sort of military intervention in Iran would set back considerably these promising regime-change forces. Still another group of Israeli policy-makers seem more inclined toward a military option, as evidenced by Israel’s well-publicized purchase of 500 “bunker-buster” bombs from the United States in September and its failed efforts to launch a spy satellite to monitor Iran’s nuclear-program developments.
Yet another policy position became evident in Seymour Hersh’s article in The New Yorker in June, in which Hersh reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, sensing that the U.S.–created chaos in Iraq could leave an opening for anti-Israel efforts in Iran, was pursuing a “Plan B” that had Israeli operatives covertly training and equipping Kurds in Iraq, Iran, and Syria for possible future covert action to counter any such measures. As Hersh reported: “Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. … Some Israeli operatives have crossed the border into Iran, accompanied by Kurdish commandos, to install sensors and other sensitive devices that primarily target suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.”
The Israeli government insisted the story wasn’t credible, and that it was sourced by Turkey, which is panicked, as ever, about foreign designs on Kurdistan. But a source told the Prospect that Franklin expressed the conviction that the United States has intelligence that affirms Hersh’s report to be largely accurate. A second former U.S. diplomatic official who recently visited the area told the Prospect that there are Israeli intelligence officials operating in Kurdish Iraq as political advisers, and others under the guise of businessmen.
All of which raises questions, like what exactly was in the draft NSPD that Rubin wrote and Franklin allegedly shared with AIPAC? And does the destabilization plan pushed by neoconservatives in the draft NSPD in fact advocate that the United States or its proxies arm the Iranian opposition, including the Kurds, as part of its efforts to pursue regime change?
The public statements by the neoconservatives emphasize that regime change in Iran would not require U.S. military force. Then again, the neoconservatives’ inspiration for the Iran plan has its roots in Reagan-era NSPDs that, while providing nonmilitary support to Poland’s Solidary Movement, also had the CIA aggressively arming and training the Afghan mujahideen, the Nicaraguan Contras, and other anti-communist rebels. There’s also no denying that some of the chief advocates of the Iran regime plot come out of the Pentagon, America’s military command center. And some of those same Iran hawks have discussed the Iran regime-change issue, for instance, with Parisian-based Iran Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar -- not exactly the kind of go-to guy for a nonviolent regime change plan, one might think.
* * *
Whatever the nuances, the neocons are facing one of their biggest challenges in Washington today: persuading the administration to adopt their regime-change policy toward Iran even while their regime-change policy in Iraq appears to be crumbling. Since the Iraq invasion, Feith’s office has come under the intense scrutiny of congressional investigators, investigative journalists, and Democratic critics for its two controversial prewar intelligence units, the Office of Special Plans and the Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group. It was those units that had helped convince the Bush White House of an operational connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda -- a claim since disproved by the independent September 11 commission, among others. Those secretive intelligence units had also been among the administration’s strongest champions of Chalabi, who allegedly told Iranian intelligence agents that the United States had penetrated Iranian communications channels.
An FBI counterintelligence investigation of who had leaked this information to Chalabi was reportedly under way by spring 2004, and many of Chalabi’s neocon allies were incredibly anxious: Misjudgment about Chalabi’s virtues or postwar Iraq planning was one thing; passing secrets to another nation would be an accusation of an altogether graver magnitude.
All of these investigations put Franklin and other neoconservatives associated with Feith at the white-hot center of a raging controversy: What would any second-term Bush foreign policy look like? Would controversial neocon figures like Feith remain in power? Or would it mark the rise of pragmatists and realists? For the neoconservatives, the fight to clear Franklin and themselves has become a fight against their internal administration rivals. And they’re fighting it in classic neocon fashion: dirty and disingenuously.
Among intelligence professionals, it’s hardly a state secret that even nations whose relationships go beyond mere alliance and constitute friendship spy on one another. That’s one reason nations have counterintelligence capabilities as well. As such, investigations of espionage and mishandling of classified documents are not uncommon in Washington; the Bush administration’s Justice Department, for example, has opened investigations to probe allegations of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Saudi espionage, including ones that involve ranking officials at the FBI and State Department. With the investigations into AIPAC and Franklin, the Justice Department has renewed its interest in snooping by our ally, Israel.
Since the Pollard case, U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement sources have revealed to the Prospect that at least six sealed indictments have been issued against individuals for espionage on Israel’s behalf. It’s a testament to the unique relationship between the United States and Israel that those cases were never prosecuted; according to the same sources, both governments ultimately addressed them through diplomatic and intelligence channels rather than air the dirty laundry. A number of career Justice Department and intelligence officials who have worked on Israeli counterespionage told the Prospect of long-standing frustration among investigators and prosecutors who feel that cases that could have been made successfully against Israeli spies were never brought to trial, or that the investigations were shut down prematurely. This history had led to informed speculation that the FBI -- fearing the Franklin probe was heading toward the same silent end -- leaked the story to CBS to keep it in the public eye and give it a fighting chance.
But the pro-Israel lobby and some neoconservatives, fighting for their political lives, have turned the leak on its head. They claim that the AIPAC and Franklin investigations have nothing to do with the substance of the Iran-related leaks. Rather, they say, investigators are going after Jews. In the current probes of Franklin and AIPAC, Michael Rubin has led the strident charge. On September 4, during the media flap over the investigations, Rubin sent an e-mail memo -- obtained by the Prospect -- to a list of friendly parties targeting two of Washington’s more respected mainstream journalists, calling them key players in an “increasing anti-Semitic witch hunt.” The memo fingered Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as one likely source of the leaks about the investigation, and also urged that, if the accusations had any merit, the White House demand the evidence be made public. “I’m increasingly concerned about the leaks spinning off from the Franklin affair,” Rubin wrote. “It was bad enough when the White House rewarded the June 15, 2003, leak by canceling consideration of the NSPD. It showed the State Department that leaks could supplant real debate. … Bureaucratic rivalries are out of control.” Rubin’s memo showed up in a similar form almost a month later in the op-ed pages of The Washington Times under the byline of National Review staffer Joel Mowbray, and echoes of it can be seen in the pages of the neocon-friendly Jerusalem Post.
Meanwhile, Franklin was involved in some pushback of his own. In late August, the Franklin case was referred from Szady to U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, a Bush-Ashcroft appointee who heads the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. A grand jury was seated on the case in September and had subpoenaed at least some witnesses to testify about Franklin. Then, on October 1, The New York Sun reported that Franklin had fired his court-appointed attorney (whom he had presumably retained for financial reasons), halting grand-jury proceedings while he found new counsel. On October 6, the Los Angeles Times reported that Franklin had stopped cooperating with the FBI entirely. He had hired a high-profile lawyer, Plato Cacheris (of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen fame), and had rejected a proposed plea agreement whose terms Franklin considers “too onerous,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Who pushed Franklin -- who for months seemed vulnerable -- to stop cooperating? And who is paying for his expensive new lawyer? At this writing, we do not know. Also unknown is the status of the larger FBI counterintelligence probe of alleged Israeli espionage into which Franklin stumbled. But we do know that his recent decisions would seem to immensely help any of the people against whom he could have testified. At least for now, that’s a round won by a clique intent on pushing freelance crypto-diplomacy to its limits.
Laura Rozen reports on foreign-policy and national-security issues from Washington, D.C. Jason Vest is a Prospect senior correspondent.
Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc

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Milton Frihetsson, 01:50


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