FBI Probe Targets Pentagon Official Analyst Allegedly Gave Data to Israel
FBI Probe Targets Pentagon OfficialAnalyst Allegedly Gave Data to Israel
By Bradley Graham and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 28, 2004;
The FBI is investigating a mid-level Pentagon official who specializesin Iranian affairs for allegedly passing classified information toIsrael, and arrests in the case could come as early as next week,officials at the Pentagon and other government agencies said last night.The name of the person under investigation was not officially released,but two sources identified him as Larry Franklin. He was described as adesk officer in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia Bureau, one ofsix regional policy sections. Franklin worked at the DefenseIntelligence Agency before moving to the Pentagon's policy branch threeyears ago and is nearing retirement, the officials said. Franklin couldnot be located for comment last night. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top Pentagon lawyers were toldof the investigation some time ago. One government official familiar with the investigation said it is notyet clear whether the case will rise to the level of espionage or end upinvolving lesser charges such as improper disclosure or mishandling ofclassified information. The investigation has been underway for some months. Defense SecretaryDonald H. Rumsfeld and top Pentagon lawyers were informed of it sometime ago, officials said. But many other senior Pentagon officialsexpressed surprise at the news when it was first reported last night onCBS. Several Pentagon officials sought to play down Franklin's role inpolicymaking, saying that he was not in a position to have significantinfluence over U.S. policy. "The Defense Department has been cooperating with the Department ofJustice for an extended period of time," the Pentagon said in astatement last night. "It is the DOD's understanding that theinvestigation within DOD is very limited in its scope." Even so, thecase is likely to attract intense attention because the official beinginvestigated works under William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary ofdefense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. Luti oversaw thePentagon's "Office of Special Plans," which conducted some early policywork for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That office is one of two Pentagon offices that Bush administrationcritics have claimed were set up by Defense Department hawks to bypassthe CIA and other intelligence agencies, providing information thatPresident Bush and others used to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. The other office was run by a Luti superior, Douglas J. Feith,undersecretary of defense for policy, and was known as the PolicyCounterterrorism Evaluation Group. Feith reports to Deputy DefenseSecretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who in turn reports to Rumsfeld. Neither the House nor Senate intelligence committees, however, foundsupport for allegations that the analysts in the offices collected theirown intelligence, or that their information significantly shaped thecase the administration made for going to war. A law enforcementofficial said that the information allegedly passed by Franklin went toIsrael through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, apro-Israel lobbying organization. The information was said to have beenthe draft of a presidential directive related to U.S. policies towardIran. In addition to Franklin, the FBI investigation is focusing on at leasttwo employees at AIPAC, the law enforcement official said. Last night, AIPAC vigorously denied any wrongdoing and said it is fullycooperating with the investigation. "Any allegation of criminal conduct by the organization or its employeesis baseless and false," spokesman Josh Block said in a writtenstatement. "We would not condone or tolerate for a second any violationof U.S. law or interests." He said he had been traveling and so had noadditional information on the situation. Another AIPAC official said: "Our folks are pretty outraged about this.We've had these kinds of accusations before, and none of them has everproven to be true." David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said: "We categoricallydeny these allegations. They are completely false and outrageous." Israel is a close ally of the United States, but espionageinvestigations here involving its government are not unprecedented. In1987, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan J. Pollard, admitted toselling state secrets to Israel and was sentenced to life in prison. Franklin's name surfaced in news reports last year that disclosed he andanother Pentagon specialist on the Persian Gulf region had met secretlywith Manucher Ghorbanifar, a discredited expatriate Iranian armsmerchant who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal of themid-1980s. That meeting, according to Pentagon officials, took place in late 2001.It had been formally sanctioned by the U.S. government in response to anIranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war onterrorism. Franklin and the other Pentagon official, Harold Rhode, metwith the Iranians over three days in Italy. Ghorbanifar attended thesemeetings. Rumsfeld has said that the information received at themeetings led nowhere.
Staff writer Dan Eggen and researcher Alice Crites contributed to thisreport.