- The latest spy tale in Washington, D.C., involving Larry
Franklin, an intelligence analyst at the Defense Department, and some of
Israel's most important lobbyists in America, is becoming deeper by the
- Spy stories are always like that, but this one packs
an intricate tale of a trusted ally betraying America, a White House intent
on using the misstep to leverage its influence, and an American intelligence
community that feels it has been made to wear horns.
- Clearly, Israel has aroused the formidable bull and will
be made to pay a price. One can speculate from what we already know.
- It started in late July this year, when a Catholic Pentagon
analyst, Franklin, telephoned a Jewish acquaintance of his who worked at
a pro-Israel lobbying group, the very influential American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
- The two men knew each other professionally. They spoke
of U.S. policies on Iran and Iraq periodically. That call was monitored
by American intelligence authorities who did not like what they heard,
and it led to a chain of events including an investigation of passing secret
intelligence information to Israel via intermediaries.
- A report published by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
last week asserts that matters have progressed to a point that a grand
jury investigation is underway and may lead to the indictment of several
prominent Jewish lobbyists in the United States on charges of passing secret
information to Israel.
- Other reports and leaks published in the U.S. media suggest
that Franklin has been singing like a canary under questioning and has
agreed to deliver facts and testimony against pro-Israeli lobbyist friends
in return for some leniency.
- Still more reports suggest that he was all along a plant,
a tool, used by the American intelligence community to ensnare the Israelis
and their network of spies among the vast community of 52 American Jewish
organizations totally devoted to control American Middle East policies
for the benefit of Israel.
- The JTA report speaks of some serious damage already
done. It states: "With senior officials at America's top pro-Israel
organization facing the specter of federal indictments, staffers at other
groups are beginning to waver in their support and are warning that the
mounting legal scandal could damage the political credibility of the entire
- You see, there is an iron-clad agreement that Israel
shall never spy on its best friend and greatest financial backer in the
world, America, particularly as American intelligence cooperates broadly
with Israeli intelligence for free.
- But whenever greed and hubris take over, Israelis have
gotten themselves and their friends in trouble. With this particular White
House of George W. Bush, which takes no prisoners, the price Israel may
be forced to pay is make some concession to the Palestinians.
- Immediately after his re-election, Bush said he had "accumulated
enough capital" in his first term that he plans to use it in his second
term to advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
- Among other things, he may indeed have been hinting,
friends in the intelligence community tell me, at the "Franklin"
- Bush does not need to have an outcome to this investigation.
He just needs to have a process whereby accusations keep hanging in the
air, while he demands to cash in his capital. Bush is like that. He plays
hard, even with friends. Even with Israel.
- As usual, Israel is denying all charges, which is a mistake
because in espionage and affairs of state, it is very important to manage
a catastrophe once it has happened, not go into denial.
- At the moment, the U.S. intelligence community -- including
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the
National Security Agency and other counter-spying organizations -- are
going for a kill, knowing their president needs to hold cards in hand against
friends and foes.
- For these guys this is also payback time, especially
as the Israelis are once again caught with their hands inside American
- The fierceness of their response was demonstrated back
in 1985, when Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American naval intelligence analyst,
was arrested he was crying like a baby at the gate of the Israeli Embassy
in Washington, D.C. Pollard had been an Israeli agent, meeting with Israeli
handlers for years supplying super-secret documents from naval intelligence.
When he was caught, and sought refuge with his wife, the Israelis would
not even open the door for him in his hour of need. He was dragged away
screaming and kicking, with his wife, to jail.
- Pollard is now serving a life sentence without parole
as a spy. Two American presidents, Bill Clinton and the current George
Bush, have firmly rejected repeated Israeli and Jewish lobby requests to
pardon him. The U.S. intelligence community has said, "No way."
Scores of petitions and Web sites offering daily support and calls for
a pardon have not made a dent in this seemingly iron will. And intelligence
sources, to make sure Pollard stays in jail, periodically leak reminders
to their media friends that he has done irreparable harm to the vital interests
of the United States.
- The real message to Israel and its supporters is: "Thou
shall not spy against America." It seems to be the same message being
delivered now over the Franklin affair to American Jewish Organizations.
- But the episode also appears to have become a bargaining
chip that the White House and the intelligence community will squeeze like
a lemon to get Israeli concessions with the full support from a chastised
American Jewish lobby. If no such support is forthcoming, the administration
seems to signal more investigations, a trial, indictments, etc.
- Stay tuned.
- Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent
for the New York Times and Energy Editor of the Wall Street Journal, is
Managing Director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org