Pentagon man charged over leak to AIPAC

By Nathan Guttman

Haaretz

Sivan 7, 5765

WASHINGTON - The federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday made public the indictment of U.S. Defense Department analyst, Larry Franklin. He is charged with leaking classified military information to employees of an unnamed lobby group.

According to reports, the group is AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Five charges of the six-count indictment accuse Franklin of conspiring to disclose national defense and classified information to people not authorized to receive it, including information about potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. One count accuses him of conspiring to communicate the information to an agent and representative of a foreign government. The indictment was handed down on May 26, but not unsealed until Monday.

The charge sheet does not mention the names of the AIPAC officials nor does it mention the organization by name. It outlines in great detail Franklin's ties with what is called "a foreign official." Sources close to the case have identified him as Naor Gilon, in charge of policy at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

From the charge sheet, it transpires that FBI agents kept a close surveillance on Gilon, Franklin and the two AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weismann, for more than two years. The FBI tapped their telephones and listened in on other conversations they held.

Israeli sources said Monday that there were no indications in the charge sheet of suspicions against Israel and that the details did not indicate any inappropriate behavior on the part of diplomats from the embassy. Nevertheless, the charge sheet states that Franklin passed on information to the foreign country and that he "acted on requests for additional information," a clause which could indicate active Israeli
involvement.

The maximum punishment for the first five counts is 10 years, and for the sixth, five years.

Franklin, a 58-year-old Air Force Reserve colonel who once worked for the Pentagon's No. 3 official, Douglas Feith, pleaded innocent to all counts at the hearing in the federal court Monday. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis set a September 6 trial.

The connection between Gilon and Franklin began when Gilon arrived in the U.S. capital and presented himself to Franklin as the "policy person" and the one with whom to be in contact. The charge sheet outlines a long series of telephone calls and 14 other talks between the two, as well as a number of faxes. Most of the conversations dealt with Iran's nuclear weapons build-up, although Iran is also not specifically mentioned.

At a meeting on May 23, 2003, at the Pentagon Officers' Athletic Club, the issue came up as did the attitude of the European countries toward it. As a result, Franklin sent a memorandum to his superiors which allegedly "incorporated suggestions made by the foreign official."

The offense of communicating national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it allegedly took place at a meeting on June 8, 2004, when Franklin allegedly gave Gilon information about Iranian activity in Iraq. This apparently was an FBI sting operation in which Franklin told the official that the Iranians were planning to hurt Israelis operating in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

According to the charge sheet, Franklin also requested a letter from Gilon that would help his daughter enter Israel from Jordan during a Middle East tour. Gilon faxed Franklin the letter.

FBI agents twice last year searched AIPAC offices.

The charge sheet also gives details of a meeting between Franklin and Uzi Arad whom it describes as "a former intelligence agent of a foreign country." Arad, who chairs the Herzliya Conference on Policy, invited Franklin to the prestigious event.

Franklin's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, said his client denied all the charges.