Pentagon Analyst Accused of Disclosing Secrets to Israel

DAVID JOHNSTON and ERIC LICHTBLAU

New York Times

May 4, 2005

WASHINGTON, May 4 - Federal agents arrested a Pentagon analyst today, accusing him of illegally disclosing a highly classified document about possible attacks on American forces in Iraq to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group.

The military analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, turned himself in to authorities this morning and was scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Va., later in the afternoon. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The investigation into a midlevel career employee at the Pentagon has stirred anxious debate in some political circles in the capital. The investigation has cast a cloud over Aipac, which has close ties to senior policymakers in the Bush administration, among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to appear later this month at the group's annual meeting.

Moreover, the case has proven awkward for a group of conservative Republicans in civilian jobs at the Pentagon who were also close to Aipac. They were led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, formerly the deputy defense secretary, who is soon to become president of the World Bank. Mr. Franklin once worked in the office of one of Mr. Wolfowitz's allies, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary for policy at the Pentagon, who is also expected to be leaving soon.

According to a 10-page F.B.I. affidavit accompanying the complaint, Mr. Franklin divulged the secret information about attacks on American forces in Iraq at a lunch on June 26, 2003, attended by two senior staff members at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Four days later, F.B.I. agents who searched Mr. Franklin's office found the top-secret document that contained the classified information.

The two Aipac employees were not identified in the complaint, but officials said the men were Steven Rosen, formerly the group's policy director, and Keith Weissman, formerly its deputy director for foreign policy issues, who have long been under scrutiny in the case.

Aipac has denied any wrongdoing in the matter and a person who has been briefed on legal deliberations in the case said the group was not a target of the inquiry. The organization had recently taken action to distance itself from the two men. Two weeks ago the group said it had dismissed Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman after months of defending them.

Mr. Franklin was suspended last year, along with his security clearance, but he had been rehired in recent months in a nonsensitive job. He has been employed by the Defense Department since 1979 and is a colonel in the Air Force reserve.

Associates of the civilian group at the Pentagon said they had been unfairly attacked by critics from inside the country's intelligence agencies with whom they have clashed since before the war in Iraq. They believe there have been other attempts to embarrass them, including last year when American officials said that Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and longtime ally of Pentagon conservatives, had told Iranian intelligence officials that the United States had broken its communications codes.

The government said today that the investigation into the disclosure of classified documents was continuing, and officials said that Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman remained under scrutiny, although their lawyers have said that they have done nothing wrong.

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman had regular discussions with Israeli officials about the Middle East and investigators have long said that they believed the Aipac employees turned over classified information to Israeli intelligence, although the government documents disclosed today made no mention of it.

During the June 2003 lunch at a restaurant in Arlington, Va., which was apparently held under F.B.I. surveillance, Mr. Franklin disclosed the information related to the potential attack on American forces in Iraq, according to the affidavit. It said that Mr. Franklin told the two men "that the information was 'highly classified' and asked them not to 'use' it."

The affidavit, signed by Catherine M. Hanna, an F.B.I. agent, said Mr. Franklin had engaged in other illegal acts. The complaint said he had disclosed government information to an unidentified foreign official and to journalists. In addition, investigators found 83 classified documents in his home in West Virginia. The documents had dates that spanned more than three decades.