|Franklin Confesses: AIPAC Under
Separate FBI Investigation
08/30/04 "ICH" 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
Second, Franklin was flipped about a month ago, and admitted his
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
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
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).
Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of
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