Israel's Spy Game - Espionage in the Pentagon
The Pentagon official Lawrence A. Franklin, recently accused of espionage for Israel, brings to mind the case of Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst, who in 1985 was arrested and convicted of spying for Israel too.
Of course, the U.S. is the closest friend to Israel, and the main funds’ backer which finances the Israeli machine, as everybody knows. Yet, these facts seemingly do not prevent the Israelis from spying and blackmailing the “most cherished friend and ally”, as M. David Siegel (Israeli ambassador to Washington) depicted the relationship.
Franklin is not Jewish, but he is accused by the FBI of passing classified information to the Israeli government, related to American policy toward Iran. At the time of his arrest he was working in the Pentagon’s policy offices, under the orders of M. Douglas Feith under-secretary of defense for policy, and involved with regional strategic planning.
For months, FBI officials have been investigating whether Franklin’s connections with the Israelis were of a nature that pushed him to pass some sensitive information, since it was known how anxious the Israelis have grown about the Iranian nuclear business.
Franklin may be of a particular interest to them in this context.
He participated, for example, in secret meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian who had acted as an arms deal middleman in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration. According to the New York Times the “secret meetings were first held in Rome in December 2001 and were brokered by M. Ledeen. He said he arranged the meetings to put the Bush administration in closer contact with Iranian dissidents who could provide information in the “war on terrorism”.
With Iranian affairs having recently grown to be important issues in the struggle between Democrats and Republicans, as are also usually the relations with Israel, then some political aspects should be considered.
1 – Franklin works under the responsibility of Feith who has been a target of Democrat’s criticism since, as an element of a study group of American Conservatives in the mid-1990s, he had urged then Israel’s Prime Minister, B. Netanyahu, “to abandon the Oslo peace and reject the basis for them”. More recently, the Democrats accused Feith of trying to manipulate intelligence to improve the Bush administration’s case for war against Iraq but the House and Senate intelligence Committee investigators found no evidence for the accusations.
2 – During the presidential campaign, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards charged the Bush administration of abdicating responsibility for the Iranian nuclear threat to the Europeans. John Kerry first outlined the idea of providing nuclear fuel to Iran in a speech in June – a proposal reportedly favoured by many Europeans- but Edwards, who twice described the concept as a bargain, was more explicit in suggesting the Kerry administration would actively try to reach an agreement with the Iranians.
This is the political context of the Franklin’s case. A context apparently marked by an important debate inside the USA, as well as in Europe and in Israel about how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program.
What this background suggests is that Larry Franklin is just a scapegoat in a game that bypasses him. Nevertheless, there are other cases making his own not that amazing for the investigators and the public as well. A little memory’s refreshing would perhaps help the understanding:
In 1985, U.S.-Israeli relations were rocked by two spy cases. Richard K. Smyth was indicted in California for illegally exporting 800 Krytons to an Israeli company. Israel claimed that it was not aware of needed export licenses for the devices. Smyth jumped bail in 1985 but was arrested by Spanish authorities in July 2001 and extradited to the U.S. in November 2001, where he pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced to 40 months in prison in April 2002.
On November 21, 1985, Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. naval intelligence employee, and his wife Ann Pollard were charged with selling classified documents to Israel for $2,500 per month over an 18-month period. The Israeli government said the spy network, headed by former Israeli intelligence officer Raphael Eitan, was a renegade operation. Four Israelis were also indicted, including Israeli Air Force Col. Aviem Sella.
Israel promoted both Sella and Eitan, although Sella’s command of a major air base and promotion were rescinded after negative U.S. reactions. Israelis continue to complain that Pollard received an excessively harsh sentence. It should also be noted that Israel sought Pollard’s release as part of the 1998 Wye negotiations with the Palestinians.
Now, would the FBI dare to charge an American official without evidence? This is the important question. The investigators have even interviewed the under-secretary of state, Douglas Feith as well as Paul Wolfowitz. Would they really make both men waste their time without a sound argument?
Despite that, there are still strong defenders of Larry Franklin, not only his stunned colleagues, but also personalities like Dennis Ross, special envoy on the Arab-Israeli peace process in the first Bush administration and the Clinton presidency. He said: “The Israelis have access to all sorts of people. They have access in Congress and in the administration. They have people who talk about these things...”
While Yval Steinitz, the chairman of the foreign and defense committee in Parliament, is “100 percent confident – not 99 percent, but 100 percent- that Israel is not spying in the United States”. And this is, of course, what Sharon 's office says also. Thus, the agreement is quite complete and harmonious between Steinitz and the Israelis.
The fact is that he is perhaps not mistaken, since the activity of Aipac is quite legitimate whereas its connections to the Mossad cannot be ignored.
Espionage is precisely an illegitimate activity. Thereupon, how can we possibly reconcile between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate? And since Franklin is suspected and charged of passing sensitive classified information about U.S. policy toward Iran to AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby group, which in turn is thought to have provided it to Israeli intelligence, then the American justice Department should logically suspend – first - the activity of Aipac as being not conformed with the law, so that the espionage charge becomes possible on these grounds. Otherwise, even if it is true that Larry Franklin provided Aipac with classified information, what makes Aipac innocent and he guilty?
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