"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Ex-Pentagon Analyst Is Said to Agree to a Guilty Plea

September 30, 2005

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Lawrence A. Franklin, the former Defense Department analyst charged in a far-ranging national security inquiry with passing classified military information to pro-Israel lobbyists, has agreed to a guilty plea, officials said Thursday.

Prosecutors declined to discuss the exact terms of the agreement. It is to be formalized in federal court in Alexandria, Va., next week, when, court officials say, Mr. Franklin is scheduled to enter his plea.

But the unexpected development suggests that Mr. Franklin has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for possible leniency and may now become the star witness against the two remaining defendants, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were dismissed last spring, amid the investigation, as senior officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac.

"When you have one member of an alleged conspiracy pleading guilty, there's always the distinct possibility that he will become a government witness," said John N. Nassikas III, a lawyer for Mr. Weissman. "But we're prepared for that."

Mr. Franklin had been scheduled to go on trial in January, along with Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, on charges that they conspired to gather national security information and disclose it to journalists and a foreign power, which government officials have identified as Israel.

Federal prosecutors have now also transferred to the Alexandria court a separate but related set of charges that Mr. Franklin faced in West Virginia, where he was accused of improperly keeping dozens of classified documents at his home. The proceedings next week are expected to resolve both sets of charges.

Before he emerged publicly last year as the central figure in the inquiry, Mr. Franklin, in what amounted to a sting operation, cooperated secretly with the F.B.I. for a short time in placing phone calls to other figures. His cooperation ended after he learned that he could face prosecution, and he sought out a defense lawyer, officials said. He was arrested in May, but until Thursday there had been little indication that he was interested in reaching a deal.

Lawyers for Mr. Franklin could not be reached for comment Thursday, and federal prosecutors in Alexandria declined to comment on the expected plea or to say what assurances, if any, he had been given should he cooperate with them.

Mr. Franklin faced the prospect of 45 years or more in prison if convicted at trial. While it is still not known what charge or charges he has agreed to admit to, several defense lawyers and former prosecutors involved in national security cases said they considered it highly unlikely that he could avoid prison time altogether, even if he did cooperate in the investigation and testify against his co-defendants.

Mr. Franklin began working at the Defense Department in 1979 and was regarded as an expert in Middle East affairs, particularly on Iran. Much of the classified material at issue in the case, the government says, dealt directly or indirectly with matters affecting Israel, including American policy toward Iran and possible attacks on American forces in Iraq.

Source: NYTimes

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Milton Frihetsson, 05:40


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