SPY RING BUSTED
AIPAC SCANDAL BREAKS LOOSE
By Richard Walker
Grand jury indictments handed down on Aug. 4 against a senior Pentagon official and two Washington-based lobbyists linked to Israel paint a grim picture of a much wider espionage ring involving unidentified high level U.S. and Israeli government officials, diplomats and spies.
AFP has obtained a copy of that grand jury indictment. The three at the center of the case are: Lawrence Anthony Franklin, who held a top secret security clearance and worked under the prominent neocon, Douglas Feith, within the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Steven J. Rosen, formerly director of foreign policy issues at American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and Keith Weisman, a senior Middle East analyst in the same Washington-based lobby group.
AIPAC is the most powerful lobby in Washington. This year, Condoleezza Rice was just one of many figures from the Bush administration to attend its annual convention. More than half of Congress was also in attendance. Rosen appears from the indictments to have been the prime mover in a conspiracy which began in 1999 but did not directly involve Franklin until three years later.
As far back as 1978, Rosen held a U.S. government secret security clearance because of his work with the Rand Corporation. Based on that clearance, Rosen was later granted top secret clearance by the CIA. However that was terminated in 1982 when he ceased work at Rand and joined AIPAC in Washington as its director of foreign policy issues.
The grand jury indictment states that in his executive capacity at AIPAC, he primarily lobbied “officials within the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.”
However, it was not until 1993 that Weisman entered the picture when he was hired by AIPAC to work on Middle East affairs under the tutelage of Rosen.
According to the grand jury, in April 1999 Rosen and Weisman began their spying operations by “cultivating relationships and using their contacts within the U.S. government and elsewhere to gather sensitive U.S. government information, including classified information relating to the national defense” which they then passed to people connected to Israel’s intelligence and diplomatic services.
In the second week of April 1999, Rosen told an unnamed “foreign official (FO-1)” that he had picked up an “extremely sensitive piece of codeword protected intelligence” that related to terrorist activities in Central Asia.
Two months later, Weisman met the same foreign official to tell him he had learned from “three different sources” of a classified FBI file on the Khobar Towers bombing. Later that year, Rosen and Weisman met with a high level U.S. government official not named in the grand jury indictment papers. They learned from that official about classified U.S. strategy options concerning Iran. The two spies then took the information and secretly discussed it with members of the U.S. media.
It appears from a careful reading of the grand jury charges that Rosen and Weisman were not only extracting information from within the U.S. government but were also plying the U.S. media with some of it, possibly to influence U.S. public opinion and bring it into line with Israel’s Iran policy which was directed at fomenting a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
It has long been Israel’s policy to compel the United States to confront Iran which Israel sees as one of its most dangerous enemies in the Middle East. Many neo-cons within the Bush administration, with strong ties to Israel, have long argued that after Iraq, the United States should force regime change in Iran and Syria.
It is clear from the indictments that before Franklin entered the picture and became part of the Rosen-Weisman espionage conspiracy, other U.S. government officials discussed classified matters with the two AIPAC lobbyists.
For example, the indictments lay out episodes in which Rosen and Weisman got information from U.S. officials referred to as “USGO 1 & 2” and Defense Department officials, identified as “DOD Employee A & B,” and how, on one occasion, they passed that information to an unnamed “foreign
It was not until August 2002, however, that Franklin, who was then working on classified Middle East policy matters within the Department of Defense, came to the attention of the two Israeli spies.
Before Franklin and Rosen met, Franklin told Rosen in a phone call that he had seven or eight issues he wanted to discuss with him and “they were not limited to Iran.” The obvious implication from that is that Franklin either knew who Rosen was or was directed by someone else in the Pentagon to link up with him.
The first meeting between Rosen and Franklin happened over breakfast in an Arlington restaurant on Feb. 7, 2003, and the unnamed Defense employee, “Employee B,” was also present, as well as Weisman.
During breakfast, Franklin told the two AIPAC lobbyists about a classified strategy paper on U.S.-Iran policy. Franklin very quickly became attached to Rosen and Weisman to the extent that two days later he discussed with Rosen his prospects for a job on the National Security Council (NSC) and how that would place him “by the elbow” of Bush.
He asked Rosen to “put in a good word” for him to which Rosen replied: “I’ll do what I can.”
On March 13, 2003, after Franklin faxed a classified document to Rosen, Rosen met with two officials from the Israeli embassy in Washington and discussed the information Franklin had provided. Rosen also leaked material from the document to two members of the media.
Three months later, at Weisman’s request, Franklin acquired for him a copy of a CIA document. One of the most intriguing aspects of the indictment is that Franklin not only met Rosen and Weisman but some of their contacts from the Israeli embassy, especially an unidentified individual referred to as “Foreign Official 3—FO-3.”
In one section of the indictment papers, while in no way minimizing Franklin’s role, the grand jury pointed out that it was the strategy of the “conspirators”—presumably Rosen, Weisman, Israeli diplomats and others—to “develop a trustworthy relationship” and also to “foster an environment” in which Franklin “felt free to disclose classified information.” In other words, a web was cleverly woven to entrap Franklin.
Sometimes, Franklin and FO-3 met at the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club beside the Pentagon and, as a rule, their discussions centered on Iran, its nuclear policy and the strategies being adopted by various U.S. government agencies to deal with Iran.
According to the grand jury, after one such meeting on May 23, 2003, Franklin returned to his desk in the DOD and drafted a memo to his superiors “incorporating suggestions being made by FO-3.” Therefore, Franklin acted as a conduit for the Israeli government to secretly shape U.S. foreign policy particularly toward Iran, and other countries in the Middle East.
Franklin and FO-3 became such close buddies that Franklin asked him for, and received, a letter to help his daughter in her travels to Israel and other parts of the Middle East.
It was FO-3, according to the grand jury, who suggested to Franklin that he meet with a former member of Mossad who was running a think tank in Israel. Franklin agreed and met the person in the Pentagon cafeteria where they discussed Iran’s nuclear program.
On May 18, 2004, Franklin again met FO-3 and handed him classified information regarding Iranian activities in Iraq. Three week later, again in the Pentagon, Franklin met FO-3 who was accompanied by another person from the Israeli embassy and they discussed Iraq.
For the remainder of that month, the FBI monitored his meetings with Rosen and Weisman and their meetings with FO-3 from the Israeli embassy.
Having snagged Franklin, FBI agents did not leave the two AIPAC lobbyists on too long a leash. On Aug. 3, 2004, the FBI interviewed the two lobbyists about Franklin.
A major question left unanswered by the indictment of the trio is whether the espionage inquiry will stop there. While members of the Israeli embassy can claim diplomatic immunity, no such immunity will be available to other unnamed U.S. government officials alleged to have passed classified materials to Rosen and Weisman before Franklin
came on board.
It will also be hard for AIPAC to claim it knew nothing about the activities of Rosen and Weisman, especially when the indictments include a reference to Weisman passing materials to AIPAC colleagues.
It will also be difficult for Israel to claim that it does not spy on the United States or covertly try to influence U.S. foreign policy.
As for the Bush administration and the neo-cons within it who have argued that Israel is America’s best ally, the grand jury indictments tell a different story.
Click here to download a copy of the federal indictment of Defense official Larry Franklin and members of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee for spying on the United States.
(Issue #34, August 21, 2005)