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Iran Contra II Update

The Boston Globe is about the only major media that has "gotten it," emphasizing in this morning's editorial the "light [the scandal] casts on the incoherence of policy-making in the Bush administration rather than any conspiracy to pilfer American secrets for Israel." The Franklin investigation is much more about the use of a back-channel to Iran, "surreptitiously" used by a faction in the DoD to undermine other factions in our national security apparatus. The Axis of Incompetence (AoI), Wolfowitz, Feith, and Luti, are seemingly attempting to instigate a war with Iran, perhaps replicating their astonishing success with Iraq. Its article, which focuses on the "second investigation," reports:

The broader probe is trying to determine whether Defense Department officials went outside normal channels to gather intelligence on Iraq or overstepped their legal mandate by meeting with dissidents to plot against Iran and Syria, according to Bush administration and congressional officials.

Senate Intelligence and House Judiciary Committee staff members say inquiries into the Near East and South Asia Affairs division have found preliminary evidence that some officials gathered questionable information on weapons of mass destruction from Iraqi exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi without proper authorization, which helped build President Bush's case for an invasion last year.

The investigators are also looking into a more serious concern: whether the office engaged in illegal activity by holding unauthorized meetings with foreign nationals to destablize Syria and Iran without the presidential approval required for covert operations, said one senior congressional investigator who has longtime experience in intelligence oversight.
It also features a scathing denunciation by Perle, a sure sign that the investigation is on the right track. Feith and his staff are cooperating with the investigation, "after months of delay." Money may have changed hands, to both Ghorbanifar and the MEK:
But one congressional investigator said staffers are looking into whether there was an exchange of money between US officials and Ghorbanifar or other Iranians, and whether any proposals for cooperation included seeking assistance from the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a group in Iraq that is seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime but is labeled a terrorist group by the US State Department.
F. Michael Maloof, another Pentagon official, may have been involved with attempts to use Lebanese general Michel Aoun to overthrow Syria. Wow.
"People are concerned about covert action being conducted by a policy office with no legal mandate to do so," said one Democratic official involved in the Judiciary Committee inquiry. "If the Senate and House intelligence committees in their review only look at the Chalabi relationship but don't look at the office's role in what was in effect covert action to explore regime change in the entire arc of the Middle East, then their inquiry will be a joke."
The LA Times has an article and an op-ed, but both address the issue as an Israeli spy case. The op-ed dicusses the ineptitude of the AoI, but mostly on broad policy issues (there's a stovepipe and a Chalabi reference). The article discusses the investigation's interactions with two AIPAC employees, Steve Rosen, the group's director of foreign policy issues and "a senior Middle East analyst for AIPAC, Keith Weissman." Israeli officials said that Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy, met with Larry Franklin, but claims his "hands are clean." The revelation of the investigation may be hampering it. The Pentagon's characterization of Franklin "as a "desk officer" with no significant influence on U.S. policy" is not accurate.

The Washington Post has an article discussing the investigation's interviews (which took place Sunday and Monday) with other high level DoD officials, including Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary for policy, and Peter Rodman, assistant secretary for international security affairs. Powell and others in the White House were briefed on the matter. Federal prosecutors are close to filing charges, though it is not clear against who - Franklin's cooperation in the investigation may result in reduced charges, but only if there is a bigger fish to fry. The progress, breadth, and subject of the second investigation, which was underway prior to Franklin's leaking information to AIPAC, is unknown. Update, 8/31, 10:44am EST: JMM comments on the Washington Post article.

The New York Times has an article reporting that the investigation's meeting with Wolfowitz and Feith were "briefings, rather than interviews." Paul McNulty, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is heading the investigation. "[T]wo unidentified officials of Aipac suspected of passing information to the Israelis are also under investigation," presumably Rosen and Weissman identified in the LA Times article.

Update, 11:01 am: For background info, see here. For info on Ghorbanifar, see here and here.

Update, 11:37 am: Laura Rozen comments on Maloof. For background on Maloof, see above.

Feedback welcome.


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