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AIPAC Spy Rejects Plea Bargain

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    Policy Analyst Is Said to Have Rejected Plea Deal Larry Franklin, who is accused of passing secrets on Iran, also has replaced his attorney. By Richard B.
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2004
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      Policy Analyst Is Said to Have Rejected Plea Deal
      Larry Franklin, who is accused of passing secrets on Iran,
      also has replaced his attorney.

      By Richard B. Schmitt
      Times Staff Writer
      October 6, 2004
      LATimes.com

      WASHINGTON — A Pentagon analyst being investigated for allegedly
      helping pass secrets to Israel has stopped cooperating with
      authorities and retained a new lawyer to fight possible espionage
      charges, sources familiar with the case said Tuesday.

      The analyst, Larry Franklin, has been a key witness in a continuing
      FBI investigation looking into whether classified intelligence was
      passed to Israel by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an
      influential Washington lobbying firm.

      Franklin has been accused of passing the contents of a classified
      document about U.S. policy on Iran to two AIPAC officials, who in
      turn may have given the information to Israeli officials in
      Washington, sources have said.

      Federal prosecutors had proposed an agreement under which Franklin
      would plead guilty to some of the charges. Such agreements usually
      are done in exchange for leniency and are accompanied by a pledge of
      cooperation.

      But sources said Franklin had rejected a proposed deal because he
      believed the terms were too onerous. He recently replaced his court-
      appointed lawyer. "It looks like there is going to be a battle," a
      source familiar with the case said.

      FBI officials have not yet sought charges against Franklin or anyone
      else in the case, although the breakdown of plea negotiations would
      appear to raise the odds that he could be charged soon.

      The scope of the investigation is believed to encompass a top
      diplomat at the Israeli Embassy in Washington; two high-ranking
      analysts at AIPAC; and the Pentagon office in which Franklin works as
      an Iran analyst, which is headed by Defense Undersecretary Douglas J.
      Feith.

      The case has attracted widespread attention because it spotlights
      U.S. relations with a longtime ally and raises questions about
      whether those relations have become too close in recent years. Israel
      has become acutely sensitive to the growing nuclear capabilities of
      Iran, which it considers to be its most worrisome and deadly foe.

      Both the Israeli government and AIPAC have denied that they engaged
      in any wrongdoing or were given unauthorized access to secrets.

      A spokesman for Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern
      District of Virginia, whose office has been assigned the case,
      declined to comment.

      A prominent Washington defense lawyer, Plato Cacheris, confirmed this
      week that he recently had been retained by Franklin.

      "We consider him a loyal American who did not engage in any espionage
      activities," said Cacheris, the first person representing Franklin to
      speak on his behalf since the investigation surfaced a month
      ago. "Any charge of espionage will be met with fierce resistance."

      Cacheris has represented a number of accused turncoats, including CIA
      operative Aldrich H. Ames, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in
      1994 after confessing to years of spying for the Soviet Union.
      Cacheris also represented former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert
      P. Hanssen, also convicted of passing secrets to the Soviets, who
      received a life sentence in 2002.

      Cacheris' other clients have included former Clinton White House
      intern Monica S. Lewinsky and Nixon administration Atty. Gen. John
      Mitchell.

      Some U.S. officials familiar with the investigation have said there
      was little hard evidence that Franklin intended to commit espionage
      and no hint that he was paid for any role he might have played.

      U.S. officials believe there is more evidence that Franklin —
      described by colleagues and friends as diligent and thoughtful yet
      periodically unreliable and disorganized — might have handed over
      information without understanding the gravity of his actions.

      During two decades at the Pentagon spent tracking threats, he was
      considered a journeyman analyst and an absent-minded professor who
      often could be found in his office buried behind huge stacks of
      documents.

      The classified information he is suspected of sharing includes the
      contents of a draft version of a national security presidential
      directive, or NSPD, on Iran. The draft advocated measures the United
      States could take to help destabilize the regime in Tehran, a subject
      of intense interest to the Israelis.

      But officials also have said that the draft, which originated at the
      Pentagon's Near East and South Asian Affairs office, where Franklin
      worked, contained little in the way of sensitive secrets that had not
      been reported by the media already.


      Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

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