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2005-10-07

Pentagon Analyst Pleads Guilty in AIPAC-Israeli Spy Case

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Larry Franklin, a top Pentagon analyst, plead guilty to handing over highly classified intelligence to members of the pro-Israeli lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC. Franklin also admitted for the first time that he handed over top-secret information on Iran directly to an Israeli government official in Washington. We speak with investigative reporter, Robert Dreyfuss. [includes rush transcript]

Earlier this week, a top Pentagon analyst plead guilty to handing over highly classified intelligence to members of the pro-Israeli lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC. The official, Larry Franklin, also admitted for the first time that he handed over top-secret information on Iran directly to an Israeli government official in Washington. Franklin said he personally met with an official from the Israeli Embassy in Washington eight times. As part of a plea agreement, Franklin pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and a third charge of possessing classified documents. He faces up to 25 years in prison. Franklin has agreed to testify against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two former AIPAC officials, who are facing trial.

The FBI has been investigating AIPAC for more than 2 years, looking into whether members of the organization helped to illegally pass on highly classified intelligence to the Israeli government. And as Robert Dreyfuss wrote in his article "Bigger than AIPAC" published in August on ZNET, "It is clear by probing the details of the case, the FBI has got hold of a dangerous loose end of a much larger story. By pulling the string hard enough, the FBI and the Justice Department might just unravel the larger story, which is beginning to look more and more like it involves the same nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums of war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well."

  • Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones and a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. His book, "Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam" has just been published.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re joined again by Robert Dreyfuss, the investigative reporter and author. Your take on the latest developments in the AIPAC case?

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, I’d put this in the same rank, sort of, as the Valerie Plame/Karl Rove investigation. You have two major investigations going on. I think the Franklin one has the potential to go much deeper than simply an investigation of a leak, as in the C.I.A. investigation. We know now that Franklin has plead guilty, and no doubt, the F.B.I. is trying to get him to cooperate in an investigation that goes far beyond just him. This investigation of AIPAC began actually in 1999. We don’t know what caused the investigation to begin. So far, the F.B.I. hasn’t said anything about why they began investigating AIPAC five years ago, but they did. Franklin stumbled into this investigation when he attended a lunch that was being already monitored by the F.B.I., and they nailed Franklin after they followed him into meetings and discussions with Israeli embassy officials and with AIPAC officials. So, Franklin is now in the bag.

The question is: Can they turn Franklin to investigate, first of all, the larger story of AIPAC? And if we can eventually find out maybe with future indictments, what was the investigation about in 1999? What does the F.B.I. have on AIPAC, and how far are they willing to press that? And then, third, there’s even a larger circle to investigate, which is — and far more explosive and sensitive because it involves the question of supposed dual loyalties between American and Israeli loyalties, and it could involve numbers of people within this neoconservative circle, both inside and outside the administration, who kind of cavalierly treat the American government and the Israeli government as sort of interchangeable parts of the same apparatus. So, we don’t know who else could be caught up in this investigation, but it certainly has the potential to become a much wider investigation, if the F.B.I. chooses to go down that road and if the prosecutor decides to really use his powers and his grand jury subpoenas and so forth to take this investigation as far as it might go.

We certainly know, at least in my reporting I have noted, that there were circles in Israel in Ariel Sharon’s office inside the Israeli government that fed information into the Pentagon the same way that Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans did, to create the, as we know now, wrong impression that Iraq was an urgent or imminent threat to the United States in 2002 and in 2003, leading up to the war. So, certainly, there were people in Israel, not all of them, but some, who wanted the United States to go to war in Iraq, and it is certainly a legitimate question to ask to what extent were there agents of influence in the United States who joined the war push. This is not a conspiracy theory. They didn’t create the war, but there was certainly various forces coming together in the period before the war in Iraq began that led to that decision by President Bush to go to war. And it’s worth investigating who they were.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Robert Dreyfuss, I want to thank you. We have to leave it there, at least for today. I want to thank you, Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter and journalist, author of The Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

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