A Pentagon analyst accused of leaking top-secret information to a pro-Israel group faces a new charge of illegally taking classified government documents out of the Washington area to his West Virginia residence. Larry Franklin was arrested on May 4th for passing top secret information to employees of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. [includes rush transcript]
A Pentagon analyst accused of leaking top-secret information to a pro-Israel group faces a new charge of illegally taking classified government documents out of the Washington area to his West Virginia residence.
Larry Franklin–one of the Pentagon’s top analysts working on Iran–was arrested on May 4th for passing top secret information to employees of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The highly classified information was then passed on to Israeli officials.
Yesterday, AIPAC closed its three day policy conference in Washington D.C. AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington D.C. It is consistently ranked among the top five most influential interest groups in Fortune magazine’s poll of annual poll of Washington insiders. AIPAC has a $40 million annual budget, offices across the country and a staff of lobbyists and researchers in the capital that work on persuading the U.S government to continue sending billions of dollars in aid to Israel every year.
This conference was AIPAC’s largest with 5,000 participants. Speakers included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. An AIPAC fact sheet about the conference stated that there were "more members of Congress" in attendance "than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address."
AIPAC is not named in the criminal complaint but government officials had previously said Franklin met with two officials from the organization at a restaurant in June 2003. Those two men–AIPAC’s policy director Steve Rosen and Iran specialist Keith Weissman — have since been fired. Franklin has been accused of providing AIPAC with a draft presidential directive that proposed a tougher policy on Iran, which included consideration of covert action towards regime change.
Yesterday’s charge of unlawfully possessing classified federal defense documents focuses on top secret CIA files found in Franklin’s home. He was released yesterday on $50,000 bond and faces a June 9 hearing.
If convicted on yesterday’s charge Franklin faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The earlier charge carries a similar prison term.
We are joined on the phone right now by Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com.
- Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com. He has an article on Larry Franklin in the forthcoming issue of The American Conservative. His latest piece on this story on AntiWar.com is called "Larry Franklin and the Axis of Espionage."
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined on the phone now by Justin Raimondo. He’s editorial director of AntiWar.com, has been writing extensively about this, recently wrote, "The Franklin Affair: A Spreading Treason." "There’s more to the AIPAC spy scandal than mishandling classified information," Justin Raimondo writes. Tell us about this scandal.
JUSTIN RAIMONDO: Well, you have to understand that it didn’t really start on June 26, 2003, when the FBI was eavesdropping on a conversation between Franklin, Weissman and Rosen. It started right after 9/11. That’s when the investigation, you know, started. And the FBI was already watching Weissman and Rosen. And so, Franklin walked in, you know, on this meeting, and the FBI was stunned. They thought, "What’s this guy doing here?" So, they started watching Franklin. And that’s what led to the charges today, and the other charges, which were issued last week. So, you know, it didn’t start with Larry Franklin, and it’s not going to end with Larry Franklin, either.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about the power of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which just closed this massive conference, considered one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, one of the top five most influential interest groups in Fortune magazine’s annual poll of Washington insiders, has a $40 million annual budget. The conference, about 5,000 people turned out, among the speakers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. An AIPAC fact sheet about the conference said there were more members of Congress in attendance than almost any other event except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union Address.
JUSTIN RAIMONDO: Well, you know, as you said, you know, it has legendary power. And it doesn’t have to register as a foreign agent, even though its top officials are passing classified information on to Israel. And still, there’s been no outcry to have them register. You know, you left out the Democratic Party, you know, leaders who were there. Nancy Pelosi gave a speech. All of these people gave speeches and they didn’t mention a single word about this espionage investigation. Now, Mr. Rosen was Mr. AIPAC. That’s what he was known as in Washington. He had been with them for over 20 years, and for him to be arrested, which is going to happen shortly, is just, you know, phenomenal. I mean, it’s like, you know, well, you know, there’s no comparison, really. You know, like for him to be arrested like this, you know, and named in this investigation is very incriminating, and I am appalled that, you know, Condi Rice and all of these, you know, like, leaders of both parties would actually show up at this conference.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, at the same time, the First Lady, Laura Bush, has been in the Middle East, and one of the most serious protests she faced, where the protesters came closer to her than in any other situation, was those as she was going to the Wailing Wall, calling for Jonathan Pollard to be released. There wasn’t a lot of attention to this in the media, or they didn’t identify exactly who the protesters were. I was wondering if many thought they were Palestinian protesters, but is there a parallel here with what Jonathan Pollard did?
JUSTIN RAIMONDO: Absolutely. You know, Pollard stole the crown jewels of the U.S. intelligence community, which was how we encrypt and how we spy on other countries, and so what he did was that he handed over this stuff to Israel, and Israel handed it over to the Soviet Union, and the Soviets executed dozens of U.S. agents inside the Soviet Union. But, you know, it’s interesting that the Pollardites would confront Laura in the Holy Land, but here, you know, like, nobody is confronting the Pollardites. You know, they openly have this conference, and —
AMY GOODMAN: Does AIPAC lobby for Jonathan Pollard to be released?
JUSTIN RAIMONDO: Oh, yes. I mean, you know, that’s an ongoing campaign. Reportedly, Ariel Sharon has been asking for his release. They’re still pressing for that. You know, you do remember that Clinton almost let him go, and George Tenet threatened to resign along with a lot of other top government officials if Clinton did it, so Clinton backed down. I suspect that Bush would get the same reaction from the intelligence community today, though, you know, perhaps Mr. Sharon is now negotiating for Larry Franklin’s release and whoever else is going to be arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about exactly what they found, the latest charges, the files in Larry Franklin’s home?
JUSTIN RAIMONDO: Well, it’s very interesting. According to an affidavit by an FBI agent who investigated the case, some of the documents were listed as a Terrorism Situation Report from a Terrorism Threat Integration Center. And these were classified as top secret. Another document was from the CIA, and it talked about al-Qaeda. Another one talked about Osama bin Laden, and where he is. And then there was the famous policy memorandum on Iraq, but that seems less important. So, I mean, what was this guy doing? He had 83 documents in his house, top secret. Half of them were top secret. And so, he had a library of highly classified information. And the question was, where did he get all of this stuff, and what was he planning to do with it? And who was checking stuff out of this library, and for what purpose? So, I mean, Larry Franklin is the dorsal fin of a whale. And we’re just seeing that dorsal fin hit the surface, but there’s a lot under the water that still hasn’t surfaced. Some of it will surface in this trial. But I expect other charges. You know, we have yet to see Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman either charged or indicted, but that’s expected soon. I have an article, by the way, coming out in the American Conservative, which talks about this.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the response of the conservative community?
JUSTIN RAIMONDO: Well, you know, it’s very interesting because you have got neoconservatives who, you know, are almost like old-line communists who would always defend the Soviet Union no matter what, and you know. I mean, to this day, they say, oh, like, the Rosenbergs were innocent, when in fact they were guilty. So, you know, you have got this kind of party line "Israel can do no wrong," but then you have got real conservatives who are saying, "What’s going on here? Why is Israel spying on us, and why are these people apologizing for it?"
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, Justin Raimondo, I want to thank you for being with us. Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of the website, AntiWar.com.