Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal

Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal

The Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal (also known as the AIPAC espionage scandal) refers to allegations that information regarding United States policy towards Iran was passed to Israel through Lawrence Franklin via staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Franklin, a former Defense Department employee, has pleaded guilty to several espionage-related charges and was sentenced in January 2006 to nearly thirteen years of prison. Two former AIPAC employees have also been indicted.

The investigation and prosecutions, which began in 1999, have attracted attention because critics of U.S. Israeli policy have claimed AIPAC has served as a conduit for Israel’s spying efforts with near impunity due to its powerful connections in Washington. Franklin's indictment mentioned but did not name several foreign diplomats, widely believed to be Israeli, as being involved with his efforts.Fact|date=March 2007


On August 27, 2004, "CBS News" broke a story about an FBI investigation into a possible spy in the US Department of Defense working for Israel. The story reported that the FBI had uncovered a spy working as a policy analyst under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. He was later identified as Lawrence Franklin, who had previously served as an attaché at the US embassy in Israel and was one of two mid-level Pentagon officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense responsible for Iran policy in the office's Northern Gulf directorate. He has since been demoted within the Defense Department and no longer has his previous security privileges. [ cite web |url= |title= Reuters |archiveurl= |archivedate=2004-08-31 ] [ [ NYT] ] [ [ Washington Post] ] Furthermore, he was sentenced on January 20, 2006 to 12 years and 7 months in prison and was fined $10,000 for passing classified information to a pro-Israel lobby group and an Israeli diplomat [ [ Franklin's prison sentence] ]

Lawrence Franklin has pled guilty to passing on a classified Presidential Directive, and other sensitive documents pertaining to US deliberations on foreign policy regarding Iran, to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who in turn provided the information to Israel. FBI sources have indicated that the year-long investigation was actively underway when the CBS News story broke.

According to FBI surveillance tapes, Franklin relayed top-secret information to Steve Rosen, AIPAC's then-policy director, and Keith Weissman, a senior Iran analyst with AIPAC, while at the Tivoli Restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. On 27 August, the FBI raided Rosen's office, copying his personal computer's hard drive. [ [ Jerusalem Post] ]

According to the "New York Times", Lawrence Franklin was one of two U.S. officials that held meetings with Iranian dissidents, including Paris-based arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, a key figure in the Iran-Contra affair. These Pentagon-approved meetings were brokered by neoconservative Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, who had also played a part in Iran-Contra , and is said to have taken place in Paris in June 2003. The "Jerusalem Post" reported that the purpose of the meetings was to "undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government", specifically, an exchange of high-ranking al-Qaeda members in Iranian custody in return for a stop to U.S. support of the anti-Iranian Mujahideen al-Khalq fighters in Iraq. [ [ Jerusalem Post] ] broken link The "Post" article dated the beginning of the FBI investigation to this secret meeting, which the public first learned about in August 2003.

Franklin had previously been assigned to a unit tasked with the Pentagon's Iraq policy, raising concern that he might have been used to influence the war on Iraq, although Pentagon officials have maintained that he was in no position to influence policy. (see also Office of Special Plans)

On August 30, 2004, Israeli officials admitted that Franklin had met repeatedly with Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and a specialist on Iran's nuclear programs, but point out that this was completely appropriate activity for the two Iran specialists. A "Newsweek" report indicates that Gilon was under FBI surveillance and that Franklin only became a target after these meetings. [ [ Newsweek] ]

It has been suggested that Franklin's motivations may have been ideological or personal, rather than financial. An unnamed U.S. intelligence official told Newsweek: "for whatever reason, the guy hates Iran [the Iranian government] passionately."

Franklin's security clearance was revoked, although he was not fired, merely demoted. The FBI investigation continued until May 5 when he was arrested and charged with giving away top-secret information [ [ Washington Post] ] [ [,1282,-4983491,00.html The Guardian] ] dead link|date=April 2008

Criminal charges

On May 3, 2005, the FBI filed criminal charges against Franklin. The complaint alleges that, at a June 26, 2003 lunch, Franklin disclosed classified national defense information related to potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq to two unnamed individuals. According to media reports, the two individuals are Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who were employed by AIPAC at the time. The complaint also alleges that Franklin disclosed classified information to "a foreign official and members of the media", and that a search of Franklin's home found approximately 83 classified documents. [ cite web |url= |title= US government source |archiveurl= |archivedate=2005-05-07|format=PDF ]

Franklin appeared in court on May 4. He was released on $100,000 bond. Franklin's lawyer said he will plead not guilty.

On August 4, a federal grand jury indicted Franklin on five charges of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 [] :
*One count of conspiracy to communicate national defense information to people not entitled to receive it. (18 USC 793 (d), (e) and (g))
*Three counts of communicating national defense information to people not entitled to receive it. (18 USC 793)
*One count of conspiring to communicate national defense information to an agent of a foreign government. (50 US 783, 18 USC 731)

Rosen was further charged with one count each of the first two, and Weissman with one count of the first charge.

The indictment revealed that the investigation had been going on since 1999, and suggested that other individuals at AIPAC, the Defense Department and the Israeli embassy had been involved as well. The indictment also alleged that Kenneth Pollack, a National Security Council staffer during the Clinton administration, provided information to Rosen and Weissman. [ [ Bush officials subpoenaed in AIPAC trial] , N Guttman, Jerusalem Post, 13 Mar 2006, retrieved July 2007]

Guilty plea

On September 30, the "Washington Post" reported that Franklin was negotiating an agreement with prosecutors and would plead guilty to at least the conspiracy charges at a court hearing the following week, after which he would continue his cooperation with prosecutors. [ [ Washington Post, September 30, 2005] ]

He did indeed plead guilty to the three conspiracy counts on October 5, explaining that he had shared his frustrations over U.S. Iran policy with the other two defendants regularly in 2002 and later passed documents he knew were classified to them in the hope they could get them to employees of the National Security Council who might be able to help force a harder line. He also asked Rosen for help getting him a job at the NSC; Rosen told him, "I'll see what I can do," claimed Franklin. [ [ New York Times] ]

He also passed other classified information along to an Israeli official concerning weapons testing and military activities in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. In return, he said, the Israeli official told him far more. Franklin stated that he knew some of the documents he passed along could be used to the detriment of U.S. national security interests.

On January 20, 2006, Judge T.S. Ellis, III sentenced Franklin to 12 years and 7 months in prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for passing classified information to a pro-Israel lobby group and an Israeli diplomat.

In August, he denied Weissman and Rosen's motion to dismiss their indictment on the grounds that the government could still prosecute and punish those who retransmitted classified information regardless of whether they had a security clearance or not, [ Ellis memorandum opinion on defense motion to dismiss indictments] , from the Federation of American Scientists] an interpretation of the Espionage Act that could have wide-reaching implications if it were allowed to become legal precedent.

Accusations denied by AIPAC and Israel

The spying charges have been denied by Israel as well as AIPAC. The Israeli Embassy in Washington called the charges "completely false and outrageous". AIPAC stated the allegations were "baseless and false".

On December 1, 2004 FBI agents raided the offices of AIPAC and seized computer equipment and files of Howard Kohr, the Executive Director, Richard Fishman, Managing Director, Renee Rothstein, Communication Director and Raphael Danziger. Research Director. According to an article published in the "Washington Post" eight days later, all were suspected of being cut-outs, agents who picked up information from Franklin and passed it on to IsraelFact|date=February 2007. The FBI did not bring charges against any of them.

There has been at least one other case of Israeli espionage in the United States before the AIPAC scandal. Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy who worked in the Naval Anti-Terrorist Alert Center, pleaded guilty to espionage and was sentenced to life in prison in 1987. The incident had a significantly detrimental impact on U.S.-Israeli relations. Israeli officials have stated that the Israeli government terminated all espionage activities in the United States after the Pollard affair.

Some believe that Israel's credibility with regards to Franklin is tainted by their insistence in the Pollard case that he likewise was not a spy, a position they maintained for 13 years before admitting, in 1998, that Pollard indeed had been a spy for IsraelFact|date=September 2007. Others think the damage that Israel sustained over the Pollard affair makes it unlikely that the country would again jeopardize its relationship with the United States through espionage, and note that the U.S. government has neither registered a protest with the Israelis nor accused its officials of wrongdoing in the AIPAC affairFact|date=September 2007.

Pentagon statement: Franklin did not influence policy

According to a Pentagon statement, "the investigation involves a single individual at D.O.D. at the desk officer level, who was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy." However, this characterization ignores evidence that while at the Office of Special Plans, Douglas Feith used Larry Franklin for sensitive projects involving foreign citizen contacts, overseas [] .

And according to the British Newspaper The Guardian, Feith's office had an unconventional relationship with Israel's intelligence services:

:The OSP was an open and largely unfiltered conduit to the White House not only for the Iraqi opposition. It also forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon's office in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam's Iraq than Mossad was prepared to authorise.

:"None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through normal channels," said one source familiar with the visits. Instead, they were waved in on Mr Feith's authority without having to fill in the usual forms.

:The exchange of information continued a long-standing relationship Mr Feith and other Washington neo-conservatives had with Israel's Likud party. [,2763,999737,00.html]

Unauthorized information transmitted to foreign citizens was a reason for Larry Franklin's 12 year Federal Prison sentence.

However, it is said that the information would have allowed Israel to apply pressure on the US prior to a final Iran policy statement. An undisclosed CBS News source said Franklin would have been "inside the decision-making loop" on Iran policy. Tensions between Israel and Iran have recently increased in the wake of the regional power vacuum left by the collapse of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Israel is deeply distrustful of Iran's nuclear intentions and has warned it may carry out air strikes against Iranian nuclear reactors. Iran has indicated it may hit back in a similar fashion at Israel.Fact|date=March 2007

Context for the investigation

Concern about uncontrolled military technology transfers

Journalist Jim Lobe suggests that the Franklin story is part of a larger investigation into transfer of sensitive military and dual-use technologies to Israel, including powerful case-management software. A concern is that Israeli companies have sold on sensitive U.S.-derived technology to potential U.S. strategic rivals such as Russia and China, and possibly on the black market where it can potentially be obtained by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. [ [] ]


ee also

*Jonathan Pollard

External links

* [ Selected AIPAC Case Files] , from the Federation of American Scientists.
*Michael Massing. [ The Israel Lobby] , The Nation, May 23, 2002.
*Patrick Seale. [ A Costly Friendship] , The Nation, August 28, 2003.
*Robert Dreyfuss. [ Agents of Influence] , The Nation, September 16, 2004.
* [ Real Insiders] , "The New Yorker", July 4, 2004.
*Ori Nir, [ Scandal Stymies Israeli Effort to Pressure Tehran] , "Forward", April 29, 2005.
*Ori Nir, [ Bad blood spills over in AIPAC spy scandal] , "Forward", December 23, 2005.
* Joshua Frank. [ AIPAC’s hypocrisy is stomach-turning, to say the least] , "Dissident Voice", January 3, 2006.
* [ AIPAC] at SourceWatch
* [ Larry Franklin indicted for espionage]
* [ Franklin Rosen Weissman timeline, AIPAC / Franklin Pentagon mole indictment, Niger yellowcake, Bush SOTU lies.] .
*cite web |url= |title= Steven Rosen Indictment |archiveurl= |archivedate=2005-11-23
* [ AIPAC Spy Ring Indictment]
* [ Keith Weissman, an Iran analyst at the AIPAC]
* [ Keith Weissman at an Iranian event]
* [ Notes on Naor Gilon]
* [ Notes on Harold Rhode]
* [ Bigger Than AIPAC]
*Mark Matthews. [ “This Is the FBI—Can We Talk?”] , Washingtonian, January 01, 2008.

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