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9/02/2004

Iran Contra II Update III

There are two must reads today. First is the New York Daily News report on the Office of Special Plans, that it is the target of a broad investigation:

The secretive Office of Special Plans and a related project are being investigated over how they obtained top-secret intelligence and whom they shared it with, according to four federal sources.

"It involves the improper transfer of information," said one source briefed on the case. "A lot more is going to come out."
Second is this Washington Post article reporting that the investigation involves much more than just the draft policy toward Iran:
The counterintelligence probe, which is different from a criminal investigation, focuses on a possible transfer of intelligence more extensive than whether Franklin passed on a draft presidential directive on U.S. policy toward Iran, the sources said. The FBI is examining whether highly classified material from the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic intercepts of communications, was also forwarded to Israel, they said.
Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley were informed of a possible leak to Israel more than two years ago, according to the Post. The Franklin investigation is "coincidental" to this broader probe.

MSNBC has a new report on Naor Gilon, the ambassador implicated in the case: "Gilon is also identified as a specialist on Iran's nuclear program." If he is implicated in espionage, he may be declared PNG. It also reports that the copy of the AIPAC hard drive was authorized by a search warrant.

The New York Times speculates as to why Franklin might have given information to AIPAC.

Forward has two interesting articles on the case. First is a look at the implications of the Larry Franklin scandal on the prospects for a policy of "regime change" toward Iran. I think it is far too early to even speculate on such matters. Larry Johnson, the former CIA analyst referred to below, continues to link the investigation to Plame/Niger:
Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and a forceful critic of what he maintains was the administration's manipulation of intelligence on Iraq, offered an alternative view.

He claimed that the Franklin affair derived from the investigation into which administration officials unlawfully "outed" CIA operative Valerie Plame by disclosing her identity to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak. The leak allegedly was orchestrated to retaliate against Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he undermined a key administration argument about Iraq's efforts to buy enriched uranium in Africa.

"I think there are several grand jury investigations going on in the Plame investigation, and one of them is focusing on the activities of the neocons at the Pentagon and in the vice president's office," Johnson said. Investigators, he added, were exploring the possibility that forged documents showing Iraqi nuclear procurement activities in Africa could have originated in Israel.
Second, Forward reports the reaction of some of the leaders of the Jewish community to the charges, most of whom seem quite concerned about possible damages to US-Israeli relations. I thing wagon-circling would be premature; there is a possibility that the revelations could fuel anti-Semitic fires, but the real story here seems to be the backchannels between Franklin-Rhode-Gerecht-Ledeen and Ghorbanifar-Michael Aoun. If AIPAC is guilty of anything, it is probably improvidently throwing its lot in with a bunch of blinkered cowboys. The story also reports on some comments by House Majority Whip Roy Blunt's press secretary:
Blunt's press secretary said that "should the allegations prove to warrant" such a probe, there was talk about a possible "congressional investigation" or "an informal fact-finding" look into suspicions of wrongdoing by Aipac employees and Israeli officials. But other congressional leaders said they were unaware of the possibility of such a probe, adding that one would be unlikely as long as the FBI investigation has not produced conclusive evidence of wrongdoing.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the two AIPAC officials involved in the investigation, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have hired a lawyer, Abbe Lowell; AIPAC itself has hired a lawyer, Nathan Levin. The AP has put out a story identifying Rosen and Weissman; despite its ubiquity, it is basically old news.

A broader version of the AP story above has a bit of new information. This may be an explanation for the naive/incompetent meme:
Several friends and colleagues of Franklin said they doubted he would be involved in true espionage, suggesting that the case could involve a simple mistake or mixup.

"I think he was probably lured into thinking that it was OK or at least you could get away with doing something like this by the general atmosphere of very full cooperation with the Israelis in the (Pentagon policy) shop," said Patrick Lang, who formerly worked with Franklin at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
It also notes Conyers' letter requesting an investigation, first reported at Laura Rozen's War and Piece.

Bill Geertz of the Washington Times gave a little background information on Franklin. Nothing new, but, once again, a defense of Franklin by Ledeen. To offer unsolicited legal advice, Mr. Ledeen should really shut up.

The Dallas Morning News had an editorial yesterday supporting an investigation: "Truth, even between friends, must out."

The LA Times has an editorial prudently urging caution in addressing the issues, recalling the unfortunate cases of Richard Jewell and Wen Ho Lee. Noting the closeness of many prominent neoconservatives (Luti, Feith and Wolfowitz) to Franklin, it claims: "this web of connections has sent conspiracy theorists who think U.S. foreign policy is being controlled by Israel into a frenzy." Maybe I'm just not reading enough on this, but I really haven't seen the frenzy. Caution is advisable here, but I have yet to see anyone alleging a Jewish conspiracy. Otherwise, the editorial is an effort at whitewashing, offering only the facile defense of Franklin as "incompetent." There is no acknowledgement of his role in the backchannels. [OK, maybe this antisemitic rant counts as frenzy.]

 

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