Pentagon official Lawrence Franklin has been arrested and charged by the FBI with having shown classified documents to two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Steven Rosen, AIPAC director of foreign policy issues, and Keith Weissman, high-level Middle East analyst–both of them only recently fired). Rosen is alleged once to have written in an internal AIPAC memo, “A lobby is like a night flower. It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”
Franklin was implicated last summer, but it has taken nearly a year to arrest him. In the meantime, he was, amazingly enough, still working at the Department of Defense on Persian Gulf security issues. (I know this for a fact).
Franklin was on the Iran desk of the Near East and South Asia department of the Pentagon, and was the “go-to” man for Iran issues for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. His tight connection to the Neoconservatives has been played down in subsequent reporting, depicting him as a low-level employee and a rogue operating on his own.
He apparently was concerned that Iran would fund anti-American militias in Iraq to attack US troops, but could not get his ideas taken seriously, and was seeking support from AIPAC and Israel. In fact, the only major fighting between US troops and Iraqi Shiites has been with the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr is notoriously anti-Iranian and his militiamen are rooted in Iraqi ghettos and are very Iraqi nativist. Some Iranian money may have come to them in Basra, but Iranians spread money around to lots of groups in Iraq. Without further details, it is hard to know what Franklin was up to, but he was probably trying to provoke hostilities with Iran by blaming Tehran for Iraqi Shiite militancy.
I commented on this story at my blog last August. Apparently the FBI has decided not to, or been ordered not to, follow up on Franklin’s attempt to give classified information directly to Naor Gilon, the Israeli embassy political officer in charge of Iran and nuclear issues in Washington until recently (he’s been sent home). Gilon was too savvy to accept an actual document from Franklin, but accepted an oral briefing. Franklin gave the document to AIPAC operatives, who then allegedly passed it to Gilon. The entire Israel angle to this case has been dropped. Now it is just Larry Franklin, rogue Pentagon employee, passsing classified documents to a couple of guys who used to work for AIPAC. (They were pretty central to AIPAC, but were fired when the scandal broke).
The absence of espionage charges is weird, because Franklin was not the original object of FBI surveillance. They were watching AIPAC meetings with Israeli embassy officials, on suspicion of systematic espionage. They were surprised when Pentagon employee Franklin showed up in the videotapes.
So, what was the FBI originally investigating, exactly, and will that case ever break?
And, when will AIPAC be made to register as an agent of a foreign power?