- The ongoing investigation into allegations that a Pentagon
staffer named Larry Franklin passed on classified government documents
to two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),
a pro-Israel lobby group, continues but with several new twists.
- Over the past weekend, several Israeli papers carried
a report by JTA, the Jewish news service, that top officials of the lobby
group had appeared in front of a grand jury in "late January or early
February," and that the two staff members who had contact with Franklin
ñ Steve Rosen, of AIPAC's research department, and Keith Weissman,
AIPAC's deputy director of foreign policy issues ñ have been placed
on paid leave.
- The same report also said that Mr. Franklin had been
"quietly" rehired at the Pentagon over the "FBI's objections."
Franklin, however, was not given back his previous position in the Iran
section, but instead placed in a "non-sensitive" area which the
report didn't specify.
- The FBI's investigations into Franklin's actions became
public last August when CBS reported that a "suspected mole"
at the Pentagon had passed along government documents to AIPAC staffers.
The "suspected mole" was later revealed to be Mr. Franklin.
- Time reported last December that government sources said
the investigations into AIPAC had been ongoing for about two years, looking
into allegations that AIPAC was "obtaining sensitive data and passing
it along to the Israeli government."
- United Press International reported on December 9 that
the initial investigations began when the FBI discovered "new, 'massive'
Israeli spying operations in the East Coast, including New York and New
- It was later reported in the Jerusalem Post that Franklin
had agreed to help in an FBI sting. Ha'aretz reported that Franklin was
told to tell the AIPAC staffers that "Iran was planning to attack
Israelis operating in the Kurdish region in Iraq." The two men then
"rushed to pass it on to Israeli diplomats, thereby falling into the
- Franklin later stopped cooperating with the FBI, fired
his public defender lawyer and hired one of Washington's best known defense
lawyers. The Washington Times reported that the FBI was "hopping mad"
at this turn of events, and this was when the bureau decided to pursue
a more agressive policy, including the subpeonas of top AIPAC officials.
- Some media sources have said the entire Franklin affair
illustrates some of the internal battles that have taken place over how
the US should deal with Iraq. The document that Franklin is alleged to
have given the two AIPAC staffers may have been a draft copy of a National
Security Presidential Directive written by Pentagon neocons (who advocate
a hard line towards Iran), which contained a proposal to destabilize Iran.
The directive had apparently been turned down by the White House.
- Ha'aretz reported last week that the case has reached
a crossroads, where the investigators "must decide on the suspects
in the case." Either Franklin would be charged with acting alone,
or Franklin and the two AIPAC employees, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, would
be charged, or "whether, on top of those three, the entire AIPAC organization
has acted unlawfully."
- Sources close to the investigation suggested recently
that it would end in a plea bargain. Franklin would plead to a lesser crime
of unauthorized transfer of information, Rosen and Weissman would be charged
with receiving classified information unlawfully, and AIPAC would remain
unstained. Franklin's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, yesterday denied the reports,
stating: "We have not entered any plea of defense with the Justice
- AIPAC refused to say anything about the possibility of
a plea bargain.
- Ha'aretz also reports that the FBI's larger goal seems
to be "an extensive examination of AIPAC itself." Since the investigation
began seven months ago, AIPAC, one of the strongest lobbying groups in
Washington, has been "struggling in two arenas": trying to resolve
the allegations against its staff members, and more important, dealing
with the "political change going on in Israel" in its relationship
with the Palestinians.
- 'AIPAC is simply lagging behind developments,' said a
congressional staffer close to the issue. According to the staffer, the
fact that most of the AIPAC board is hawkish on the Israel-Palestinian
conflict makes it difficult for the lobby to accommodate itself to Israel's
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