Newsweek: Franklin Confesses
AIPAC Under Separate FBI Investigation
Laura Rozen directs our attention to the new Newsweek article by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, which has several new details on the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal in the Pentagon.
First, Franklin’s passing of confidential documents to AIPAC was discovered because AIPAC was already under FBI surveillance for possible espionage for Israel.
It was just a Washington lunch-—one that the FBI happened to be monitoring. Nearly a year and a half ago, agents were monitoring a conversation between an Israeli Embassy official and a lobbyist for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, as part of a probe into possible Israeli spying. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, in the description of one intelligence official, another American “walked in” to the lunch out of the blue. Agents at first didn’t know who the man was. They were stunned to discover he was Larry Franklin, a desk officer with the Near East and South Asia office at the Pentagon.
So now the question is, what tipped the FBI to possible AIPAC spying efforts for Israel, and what is the substance of that investigation, which is apparently unrelated to the Franklin case?
Second, Franklin was flipped about a month ago, and admitted his Israeli contacts:
Officials say that Franklin began cooperating about a month ago, after he was confronted by the FBI. At the time, these officials say, Franklin acknowledged meetings with the Israeli contact.
A raft of articles appeared on Sunday based on interviews with Franklin’s colleagues, which attempted to spin him as spacey and naive. Here is a reserve colonel, a Ph.D., a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, a man who knows several languages, is tough enough to play hardball inside the Pentagon. And he’s a woolly-headed idiot? How likely is that? He is clearly a lamb being fattened. Franklin worked for or hung out intensively with Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Luti, Abram Shulsky, Harold Rhode, David Wurmser and a host of other officials known for their pro-Likud sentiments. So he takes it into his head all alone to pass confidential information to the Israelis? How likely is that?
Another way of soft-pedalling the story is to claim that he is a low-level desk officer without real influence or power. But Franklin is the Iran desk officer for the Pentagon. If Wolfowitz has a question about Iran, he calls Franklin. That isn’t a “low level” position without influence.
Further, we know from UPI and Knight Ridder that the FBI investigation is not limited to Franklin.
I haven’t seen any more on the Jerusalem Post’s tantalizing assertion that Franklin attempted to block the trading of Mojahedin-e Khalq terrorists to Iran in return for five high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives in Iranian custody. But here is an Agence France Presse report from last December that explains the negotiations.
AFP, Dec. 10, 2003:
‘ Several Western diplomats have said Iran has been resisting handing over top-ranking Al-Qaeda fugitives, complaining that the United States had failed to deal with the People’s Mujahedeen — which has waged a brutal armed struggle against Iran’s clerical rulers — after its invasion of Iraq.
There have also been reports that Jordan’s King Abdullah II was quietly trying to broker a deal between the United States and Iran over the issue.
Diplomats and Arab press reports have said Al-Qaeda detainees here include bin Laden’s son, Saad, Al-Qaeda’s spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Gaith, and its number three Saif al-Adel.
The People’s Mujahedeen, or Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization (MKO) set up base in Iraq in 1986 and carried out regular cross-border raids in Iran, with which Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988.
For many in Iran’s leadership the struggle is also a personal one — supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had his arm paralysed in a 1981 attack blamed on the group.’
By the time this article appeared, the al-Qaeda trade had already fallen through because powerful US politicians, some with Likud Party links, had intervened to protect the MEK.
This summer, 2003 NBC report is also suggestive:
“We have exclusive new details tonight on talks between the US and Iran, a nation the President said was part of an axis of evil. Iran can help the American fight against terrorism, but apparently they have named a price.” NBC (Brown) adds, “These three, among the most wanted members of Al Qaeda. The alleged poison expert who got medical treatment in Iraq, [Abu Mussab al Zarqawi]. Bin Laden’s third oldest son, [Sa’ad bin Laden], known to be planning new Al Qaeda operations. The Al Qaeda spokesman, [Suleiman abu Gaith], famous for introducing bin Laden in this videotape after 9/11. Many US officials believe that Iran is willing to turn them and other key Al Qaeda operatives over to the US or their home countries — for a price — in exchange for members of an Iranian opposition group called the Mujahadeen al-Khalq, or the MEK. The MEK has been attacking Iran’s Islamic government from Iraq and is now there under US military control.”
Iran is reported to have Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in custody in summer of 2003, and to be entirely willing to hand him over to the US in return for some high-ranking MEK terrorists. But first the neocon network, including Franklin, Harold Rhode and Michael Ledeen, intervenes to stop the trade (see below). Then, mysteriously, everything that goes wrong in Iraq from about January of 2004 begins being blamed on Zarqawi (is it alleged that Iran let him go, to deliberately disrupt Iraq by blowing up Shiites? More likely, when Iran won’t accommodate the Neocons because of the latters’ ties to MEK, the neocons decide to smear Iran as “harboring” terrorists and “sending” them to Iraq. They know this path might even lead to a US war on Iran, which is what they want. That is one reason they did not want the prisoner exchange to succeed).