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Justin Raimondo: State Secrets

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    State of the State Secrets by Justin Raimondo June 20, 2005 Issue Copyright © 2005 The American Conservative http://www.amconmag.com/2005_06_06/feature.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2005
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      State of the State Secrets
      by Justin Raimondo
      June 20, 2005 Issue
      Copyright © 2005 The American Conservative
      http://www.amconmag.com/2005_06_06/feature.html


      The circumstances surrounding the arrest of Pentagon analyst Lawrence
      A. Franklin for passing classified information to two employees of
      the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would make a
      good thriller. Acted out against a backdrop of war and terrorism,
      it's a cloak-and-dagger tale swathed in mystery, pregnant with
      political implications, and hinting at a subtext of hostility beneath
      the "special relationship" binding the U.S. to Israel. It has all the
      elements of good fiction—a strong plot, a fascinating set of
      characters, and a theme that will have the audience buzzing long
      after they leave the theater. Better yet, it looks like the dramatic
      climax will come in the form of a courtroom drama in a legal battle
      pitting the watchdogs of America's vital secrets against a shadowy
      fifth column.

      For years the FBI's counterintelligence unit has been tracking a
      major espionage cell operating on behalf of Israel. Franklin stumbled
      into it one summer day in 2003, when he showed up at Tivoli
      restaurant outside Washington and met with two AIPAC officials—Steve
      Rosen, AIPAC's longtime foreign-policy director, and Keith Weissman,
      AIPAC's top Iran specialist. Franklin, described by his colleagues as
      a naïve ideologue who, as Ha'aretz put it, "believes wholeheartedly
      in the neo-conservative approach," revealed classified information
      about possible Iranian-sponsored attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
      Franklin was apparently worried that U.S. policymakers were
      insufficiently alarmed over the alleged Iranian threat to our
      interests in Iraq and was looking to enlist AIPAC—and the Israeli
      government—in pressuring policymakers to take a harder line on
      Tehran.

      What he didn't know, as he spilled U.S. secrets, was that the FBI was
      recording his every word. It would be a while before he found out.
      Until then, he was watched, his phone conversations were recorded,
      and agents observed him trying to pass classified documents to an
      individual already under surveillance. However, as Newsweek described
      it, the unidentified Israeli spy was "too smart" for that, and
      insisted Franklin relate the information verbally.

      An analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Franklin served in
      the Air Force Reserve and did several tours of duty attached to the
      U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. As Iran desk officer with the Defense
      Undersecretary for Policy, Near East South Asia, Franklin later moved
      to Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans (OSP), where he and his
      fellow neocons cooked the intelligence on Iraq according to Ahmad
      Chalabi's special recipe and then served it up piping hot to Dick
      Cheney's boys, who delivered it straight to the White House. As
      Seymour Hersh relates, they called themselves "the Cabal"—a bit of
      self-mockery that, in retrospect, seems all too descriptive. OSP
      functioned, in effect, as a parallel intelligence agency. Its mission
      was to bypass the CIA, the DIA, and the mainline intelligence
      community and give the War Party the answers they wanted. The
      cabalists did not limit their activities to writing up talking
      points, however, but also engaged in field operations that caught the
      attention of the State Department and the CIA.

      In December 2001, Franklin, along with Harold Rhode, a Middle East
      expert and Franklin's colleague in Feith's policy shop, and
      neoconservative writer Michael Ledeen—at the time working for Feith
      as a consultant—met with the infamous Manucher Ghorbanifar, of Iran-
      Contra fame, and a group of Iranians, including a former high
      official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Also in attendance:
      Nicolo Pollari, head of the Italian intelligence service, and Italian
      Defense Minister Antonio Martino. As writer Laura Rozen tells
      it, "Ghorbanifar told me he has had fifty meetings with Michael
      Ledeen since September 11th, and that he has given Ledeen `4,000 to
      5,000 pages of sensitive documents' concerning Iran, Iraq and the
      Middle East, `material no one else has received.'"

      In trying to discover how Iran had gotten its hands on vital U.S.
      secrets, including information on how the U.S. was eavesdropping on
      the Iranian government's encrypted internal communications, the FBI
      must surely have taken some interest in these activities. Their chief
      suspect, after all, was Chalabi, whose Iraqi National Congress
      supplied much of the grist for the OSP's mill.

      A raid on Chalabi's Baghdad headquarters brought the whole affair
      into the open, and the Chalabi investigation has reared its head
      again in the Franklin affair. The Washington Post reports that the
      initial stage of the inquiry into Chalabi's activities as a double
      agent "focused on the activities of a US military reservist who was
      serving at the US Embassy in Israel."

      When the FBI confronted Franklin and searched his home and office—
      turning up 83 classified documents, spanning three decades—he agreed,
      at first, to help the investigation, presumably in return for a
      promise of leniency. By some accounts, notably those by pro-AIPAC
      writer Edwin Black, Franklin agreed to make a series of monitored
      phone calls to suspects in the investigation, including
      neoconservative supporters of Chalabi. They also supposedly planted
      information via Franklin that Israeli agents operating in the Kurdish
      area of northern Iraq were in danger of assassination by Iranian
      agents. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Franklin met with
      Weissman on July 21, 2004 outside Nordstrom's at the Pentagon City
      mall in Arlington and warned him about Israel's Kurdish problem.
      Alarmed, Weissman and Rosen passed this on to AIPAC, which raised the
      matter in meetings with NSC official Eliot Abrams. They also called
      Naor Gilon, top political officer at the Israeli embassy. This was
      followed shortly afterward by the FBI's first raid on AIPAC's
      Washington headquarters. (They would return four months later.)

      Whoever leaked details of the case to CBS News, including Franklin's
      identity, nixed the FBI's efforts to trace the transfer of sensitive
      materials from the spy nest embedded in our government to Israeli
      officials. FBI officials were furious: the leaker had effectively
      sabotaged their investigation, at least for the moment. Franklin
      stopped co-operating with the authorities, dismissed his court-
      appointed lawyer, and hired the high-priced law firm of Plato
      Cacheris.

      The recent kickstarting of the prosecution, however, has seen a sea
      change in AIPAC's defense strategy. Rosen and Weissman have been
      handed their walking papers, and AIPAC is backpedaling furiously on
      its previous statements denying any wrongdoing by its employees,
      although the group is still paying the duo's legal bills. JTA reports
      indicate they are both to be indicted shortly, and Rosen anticipates
      the trial may begin as early as January 2006. He has pledged to fight
      the charges.

      When this case comes to trial, it won't be only three spies for
      Israel who stand accused: the whole nexus of organizations and
      interests that came together in the War Party will be put in the dock.

      When Franklin walked in unexpectedly on that luncheon meeting, he
      stumbled onto one of the biggest, most far-reaching espionage
      investigations since the Cold War. The crime committed in this case
      involves not only the theft of vital U.S. secrets but a concerted
      effort to influence American foreign policy on behalf of a foreign
      power. This is indicated, for one example, by the FBI's recent
      interrogation of Uzi Arad, formerly director of research for the
      Mossad and now head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at
      Israel's Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. According to The Forward,
      the FBI wanted to know why he had sent Franklin a research paper by
      Eran Lerman on how to re-invigorate America's relationship with
      Israel. Lerman, a former IDF intelligence officer, is the executive
      director of the American Jewish Committee's office in Israel. They
      also asked Arad about two conversations he had with Franklin: one at
      the December 2004 Herzliya Conference, which Franklin attended, and
      the other in the Pentagon cafeteria.

      The Lerman paper argues that the U.S.-Israeli "special relationship"
      has fallen into "maintenance mode" in recent times and that America's
      grand democratization project in the Middle East calls for what
      Lerman dubs "the Special Relations Initiative of 2005." Whether this
      more assertive policy includes such activities as spying is a matter
      for conjecture, but the FBI's interest in a top AJC official shows
      that the scandal is widening.

      It is also embracing more than lobbying groups like AIPAC and the
      AJC. The affidavit supporting Franklin's arrest noted that Franklin
      may have disclosed classified information to reporters, and the New
      York Times reports that federal agents have begun questioning
      journalists who may have written articles based on Franklin's
      revelations—the Times puts the number so far at four, "among them at
      least one newspaper journalist and others whose work has been
      published on the Internet." The JTA has named the newspaper reporter:
      Glenn Kessler, the State Department correspondent for the Washington
      Post.

      The FBI is said to have taped a July 21, 2004 conversation that
      Weissman and Rosen had with Kessler. According to the JTA report,
      they joked about "not getting in trouble" over the exchange of
      information. "At least we have no Official Secrets Act," said Rosen,
      referring to laws on the books in Britain and elsewhere prohibiting
      receipt of classified information. The joke, however, is on them. If
      the prosecution proves that they knew they were passing on classified
      information, including to an official of a foreign nation, they could
      wind up in the next cell over from Jonathan Pollard.

      AIPAC's defenders lamely claim "mishandling" classified information
      is not the same as espionage. Franklin is charged with violating
      Title 18, Section 793(d) of the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime
      to pass to unauthorized persons "information the possessor has reason
      to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the
      advantage of any foreign nation." But Rosen and Weissman, who handed
      over classified information to Gilon, could face charges under
      Section 794, which carries a punishment of either death or life
      imprisonment for the crime of communicating information relating to
      the national defense "to any foreign government." According to a
      report in the New York Sun, the charges are so classified that AIPAC
      lawyer, Nathan Lewis, was required to get a security clearance to
      hear them.

      The mystery at the heart of this investigation is how and when it
      began. Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder reported in 2004 that the
      probe "has been going on for more than two years," and UPI's Richard
      Sale cites a "former senior U.S. government official" as saying, "In
      2001, the FBI discovered new, `massive' Israeli spying operations in
      the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey," and they began
      watching Gilon, who eventually led them to Franklin. The JTA dates
      the genesis of the inquiry more precisely: "information garnered
      during the investigation into alleged leaks from a Pentagon analyst
      to the two former AIPAC staffers suggests the FBI began probing AIPAC
      officials just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

      Like a dorsal fin poking just above the water, the Franklin spy trial
      promises us a glimpse of a creature much larger than appears at first
      sight. Whether the trial will draw it up to the surface remains to be
      seen. In any case, the magnitude of the problem posed by the covert
      activities of our ally—heretofore ignored or covered up—is all too
      clear.
      _____________________________________________________

      Justin Raimondo is editorial director of Antiwar.com.

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