The Spy Case
There are two stories here.
The first is a controversy surrounding a DoD official, Larry Franklin, who leaked a classified provisional plan on US policy toward Iran to AIPAC. Based on Laura Rozen's reporting, Franklin wanted the Israeli lobby to use some pull to affect the still-developing administration policy - Franklin didn't think it was tough enough, and wanted AIPAC's help sharpening some of the edges. This is not necessarily a "spy case" - it could easily just be a window into the dysfunctional Bush administration policy process, where outside groups are given more influence over policy than professional administration officials (not that Franklin really counts as a professional - see Juan Cole). It is important, but not earth shattering.
The second story is bigger. Apparently the FBI is trying to "turn" Franklin, to get him to talk about how US policy-makers cooperated with shady Iranian arms dealer - Manucher Ghorbanifar - to manipulate American policy both toward Iraq and Iran. The forged Niger documents that originated with Italian intelligence (SISMI) may have had a connection to Ghorbanifar. Cooperation between senior Republicans and Ghorbanifar could indicate an actual conspiracy to manipulate global public opinion and American policy.
Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris are the must read.
CBS broke the story and provided details on the investigation of the initially unnamed Walker. The Washington Post fingered Larry Franklin and notes that he recently spent some time in Israel. The New York Times reported on the connection to Feith's office and noted that the FBI was trying to 'turn' Franklin, without speculating as to why, and reported an Israeli denial of spying. Knight Ridder reported that the story was broader than it first looked, and noted that the investigation is more than two years old. The LA Times reported on the role of Iran (sort of - it's has more self-preservation from Ledeen than anything), and provided some background on Israeli spies. The AP gave some background on the investigation, reported Israel's denial, and analyzed the impact on Rumsfeld. An older MSNBC look at Ghorbanifar.
Laura Rozen provides a first look (her site is down right now - "bandwidth exceeded"). Steve Clemons has two looks at Larry Franklin, here and here. Mark Kleiman has a couple of analytical posts, here and here. Kos provides some context. Josh Marshall provides a first look (see the must read above). Matt Yglesias talks about cognitive dissonance here. Atrios has a round up. Swopa has an exchange with Ledeen. Juan Cole seems a bit angry:
Franklin's movements reveal the contours of a rightwing conspiracy of warmongering and aggression, an orgy of destruction, for the benefit of the Likud Party, of Silvio Berlusconi's business in the Middle East, and of the Neoconservative Right in the United States. It isn't about spying. It is about conspiring to conscript the US government on behalf of a foreign power or powers.Update, 8/30/04, 12:01 pm EST: Apologize for the long quote from MSNBC, but so be it:
LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA AGENT
JOHNSON: What I‘ve been told is that there‘s a strong belief that the forgery was carried out by Israel in an effort to help build up the evidence to allow the United States to justify going to war. So, this whole thing that started with the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA officer, started growing and expanding when they saw that there‘s this forged memo and then people linked to the office of—in the office of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Fife at the Department of Defense were seen as having some very close contacts and sharing information with the Israeli intelligence sources.
WITT: Larry, I want to go back to what you just said. You‘ve been hearing about this investigation for some months now?
WITT: So my question to you, the timing of this release, it is Friday night. We‘re heading into the weekend, leading into the Republican National Convention. Anything to be tied to that?
JOHNSON: Potentially, yes. You know, this would be a political black eye for the Bush administration if it turns out to be true. Well and again, it is—I know that the FBI has been very reluctant to talk about it. I‘ve been hearing about it through people who have had access to people who have been involved with the investigation. And they‘ve been trying to run down these various leads.
But, a key component of this goes back to who forged the memo that that letter—that document that was used to insinuate that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger? And so this, and look, we shouldn‘t be surprised that Israel is spying us on. There‘s no such thing as a friendly intelligence service. And from the standpoint of Israel, I understand why they‘re spying on us, but you know we‘re not Israel. We‘re the United States and from our standpoint, we‘ve got to protect our national security assets. And no matter how good a friend Israel is, they don‘t get to come inside and get a hold of the family jewels.
WITT: Now Larry, from your perspective, how big might this be?
JOHNSON: Well I think it‘ll be huge. I mean I‘ve heard some of the other names that are being looked at and you know one of the concerns is it goes over to the National Security Council as well. So this could expand beyond the Department of Defense and go into the National Security Council. I mean I know that there were targets that are being looked at. Now whether they‘ve collected enough evidence to be able to prosecute, that‘s a whole other issue.