More Israelis May Fall under Cloud of Franklin Sting Operation
Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, former top Pentagon analyst, pleaded guilty to three felony counts as part of a plea bargain. During the plea hearing before US District Judge T.S. Ellis, in Alexandria, Va., he admitted to leaking classified information to two members of the pro-Israeli lobbying group American Israeli Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC out of frustration with government policy. He had hoped the two men, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman – since fired from AIPAC – would pass the information on to contacts of theirs on the National Security Council and possibly get the policy changed.
Franklin faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 20, but is likely to serve less. For a full account of the classified information he passed to Naor Gillon, political officer at the Israel embassy in Washington, and two former AIPAC officials, he will serve at a prison facility where conditions of relatively lenient and receive a government pension to care for his ailing wife.
The exchange in the Alexandria court pointed to undisclosed information that could bring additional Israelis into the case.
Franklin testified he had meetings with Rosen and Weissman between 2002 and 2004 and gave them information on possible attacks on US forces in Iraq and the two shared the information with Israeli reporters and officials. Both have been charged with conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US defense information. Franklin himself gave information to unnamed reporters on two American officials serving in the Middle East. The implication was that the two were intelligence officials.
Four further salient points were brought out at the court hearing Wednesday, Oct 6:
1. Franklin met Gillon at least nine or twelve times. He said “It was never my intent to harm the United States, not even for a second,” Regarding the information he passed to Naor Gilon, political officer at the Israel embassy in Washington, the former Pentagon official insisted: “I knew in my heart that his government had this information. He gave me far more information than I gave him.”
2. Franklin, as an expert on Iran and Iraq, would occasionally be questioned directly by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former top Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz on policy issues. For that reason, he sometimes took classified information home to keep up – an unlawful action which was one of the three charges to which he pleaded guilty.
3. During Wednesday’s hearing, Franklin objected to the prosecutor’s presentation as classified of a document he faxed to AIPAC. He started to explain the document was an unclassified “list of murders the Iranian government…” when he was cut off by the prosecutors claiming he was about to disclose classified information in an open court. The judge agreed to place that portion of the court transcript under seal.
debkafile clarifies: Previous publications on the case referred to an Iranian death lists of Americans and Israelis operating under cover in Iraqi Kurdistan.
4. The allegations against Rosen, more than 20 years a top Washington-based lobbyist, and Weissman, an Iran expert, are broader than reported. They are alleged to have disclosed sensitive information as far back as 1999 on a variety of topics including al Qaeda, terrorist activities in Central Asia, the1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and US policy in Iran.
Franklin agreed to testify at the upcoming trial of the two ex-AIPAC officials. He earns a living in the meantime from lectures at Virginia University, as a restaurant waiter and car valet.