September 5, 2004
WASHINGTON - The FBI
investigation into the Pentagon mole affair has expanded beyond data
analyst Larry Franklin's immediate circle to encompass the entire issue of
Jewish influence on the neoconservative part of the administration.
The FBI queries have recently been focusing on a number of officials, all from the neoconservative wing, who had access to the debates on Iranian affairs, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
The officials include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Pentagon adviser Richard Perle; adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, David Wormser; and Iran specialist Harold Rhode, all of them Jews.
The Washington Post reported that FBI people recently spoke to administration officials and Middle East experts to sound them out on the suspicion that senior officials funneled secret material to Israel. They asked each official whether he believes that a certain group of people could spy for Israel and transfer secret information.
The investigation now appears to center on the claim made by the opponents of the neoconservatives in the administration - that the latter are responsible for the U.S. Middle East policy and that they are suspected of bias in favor of Israel's interests.
The issues being queried have also increased. It transpires that the FBI is investigating, in addition to funneling classified information to Israel, the possibility that secret information had been given to Ahmed Chalabi, of the Iraqi opposition. Chalabi was close to many of the people mentioned in the affair and was a central source of information to the Americans on the goings-on in Iraq before the war.
The Washington Post said the FBI asked the administration officials about Israeli embassy officials in Washington who allegedly held contacts with administration officials to procure secret information. So far, only the name of Naor Gilon, the political adviser in the embassy, was mentioned as involved in the affair.
The L.A. Times reported on Friday that the American administration does not believe Israel's contention that it does not spy on America and that U.S. government officials say Israel secretly maintains a large and active intelligence-gathering operation in the U.S.
The officials said the FBI and other bodies spy on Israeli diplomats in Washington and New York as a matter of routine. The report said that Israel has long attempted to recruit U.S. officials as spies and to procure classified documents, according to the Times.
Israel said it set a policy of not spying on the United States after Jonathan Pollard's arrest in November 1985 and the damage it did to bilateral relations in general and to intelligence and security ties in particular. For 20 years, Israel said, that policy has translated into unequivocal directives to the intelligence and defense communities: They are not allowed to locate candidates for recruiting as agents, cannot recruit and operate agents, nor pay for information.