Neocon Pentagon Intelligence Officer Indicted for ‘Unauthorized Disclosures’

After a two-year investigation, Neoconservative Pentagon policy analyst Larry Franklin (in photo on right, with Douglas Feith, left) was charged yesterday with making unauthorized disclosures to a foreign official and to members of the news media, according to the Los Angeles Times today.

This story presents us with many questions, including what allegedly may have motivated Franklin to share US secrets with Israel – and how the dots may connect from this investigation to other better known neocons, including Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and even Vice President Dick Cheney.

Franklin, described as a “pro-Israel Pentagon official,” is rumored to have given unauthorized information about US plans regarding Iraq and Iran to officials from the lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Last month, two AIPAC officials who were reportedly involved in the matter were fired. Steve Rosen was the group’s director for foreign policy issues. Keith Weissman was Rosen’s deputy and a specialist on Iran.

Any casual observer of the Bush Administration might wonder how a government investigation that involved Administration officials could proceed without interference from above. Not surprisingly, the charges against Franklin cover “who, what and when” but avoid mentioning motive, which is an essential element of any criminal case:

The complaint against Franklin does not allege that he engaged in espionage or that he directly shared secrets with Israel. Lawyers for Franklin and for the two lobbyists that allegedly received the classified information issued vigorous denials. And the complaint does not ascribe a motive to Franklin’s disclosures, or identify Israel as an ultimate beneficiary.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment has been following the story, and has this on Franklin’s possible motives:

Franklin was implicated last summer, but it has taken nearly a year to arrest him. In the meantime, he was, amazingly enough, still working at the Department of Defense on Persian Gulf security issues. (I know this for a fact).

Franklin was on the Iran desk of the Near East and South Asia department of the Pentagon, and was the “go-to” man for Iran issues for [former] Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and [former] Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. His tight connection to the Neoconservatives has been played down in subsequent reporting, depicting him as a low-level employee and a rogue operating on his own. [Feith and Wolfowitz both resigned this year. Feith resigned for “personal and family reasons.” Wolfowitz now heads the World Bank. ]

[Franklin] apparently was concerned that Iran would fund anti-American militias in Iraq to attack US troops, but could not get his ideas taken seriously, and was seeking support from AIPAC and Israel. In fact…some Iranian money may have come to [Iraqi militias] in Basra, but Iranians spread money around to lots of groups in Iraq. Without further details, it is hard to know what Franklin was up to, but he was probably trying to provoke hostilities with Iran by blaming Tehran for Iraqi Shiite militancy.

I first got wind of this story from Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo last summer. In August, Marshall wrote:

[Larry Franklin is] an important person in Feith’s operation — which isn’t surprising really since he’s an analyst on a topic — Iran — at the center of Feith’s concerns. And Iran policy is already a dicey matter since this is the same shop that used to be the main locus of Chalabism in the governmnet. And of course [Ahmed] Chalabi later ended up to have been feeding US intelligence to the Iranians.

Feith’s operation has been at the center of a number of bizarre intelligence snafus and embarrassments — at least two of which have now spawned criminal investigations. One of the more memorable ones was being in charge of post-war planning for Iraq, which didn’t pan out that well. Feith’s office is also closely tied to Vice President Cheney’s office, which is the focus of the Plame investigation.

And then in September, Marshall posted this update, based on a story in the Washington Post:

According to the Post, FBI investigators are looking at people in Feith’s office (Harold Rhode), Cheney’s office (David Wurmser) and on the Defense Policy Board (Richard Perle).


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