AIPAC Spy Rejects Plea Bargain
- 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
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
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.
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
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
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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