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Friday, August 27, 2004

FBI: Israeli Spy in the Pentagon 

Huh. Just the one? From Haaretz:
The American TV network CBS reported Friday that an Israeli spy is operating inside the Pentagon.

According to the report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is convinced the spy has conveyed highly sensitive information to the Israeli government via two representatives of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

The report says the suspected mole is a senior analyst who works in the bureau of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The person is also said to be closely associated with two senior Pentagon officials who are Jewish, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith.

"The FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to ... roll up someone agents believe has been spying, not for an enemy, but for Israel, from within the office of the secretary of defense," CBS reported.

The network said that the mole, whom it described as a "trusted analyst of the Pentagon," had last year passed on "secret White House deliberation on Iran."

It also reported that FBI investigators are concerned that Israel may have used the mole in an effort to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq.

The FBI has notified Rumsfeld about the investigation and has asked AIPAC to provide it with information about the two representatives in the organization who are suspected of involvement.
Wolfowitz and Feith are clearly off the hook, since a "spy," by definition, operates in secret.

Personally, we suspect Secretary Rumsfeld is just trying to make amends for that TOP SECRET NOFORN information he and Cheney passed to Prince Bandar and the Saudis just before we invaded Iraq. Hey -- fair is fair.

UPDATE: The Washington Post confirms what you have undoubtedly surmised from the above: that the mole worked in Sec. Rumsfeld's intelligence-cooking outfit, the Office of Special Plans:
Pentagon officials sought to minimize the significance of any sensitive information the suspect individual may have wrongfully passed. "The Defense Department has been cooperating with the Justice Department on this matter for an extended period of time," the Pentagon said in a statement issued last night. "The investigation involves a single individual at DOD at the desk officer level, who was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy. Nor could a foreign power be in a position to influence U.S. policy through this individual. To the best of DOD's knowledge, the investigation does not target any other DOD individuals."

Even so, the case is likely to attract intense attention because the official being investigated works under William J. Luti, deputy under secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. Luti oversaw the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans," which conducted some of the early policy work for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Some critics of the Bush administration have accused that office of distorting intelligence about Iraq in order to improve the case for going to war by arguing that Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda were much more closely linked than the intelligence community believed.

Luti reports to Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, who in turn reports to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld.
UPDATE II: Ladies and gentlemen, your finalists: Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin.

UPDATE III: Laura Rozen of War and Piece, who has been working with Josh Marshall and Paul Glastris on an Iran story for the Washington Monthly, says more or less definitively that Larry Franklin is the object of the investigation:
A source told me that some time in July, Larry Franklin called him and asked him to meet him in a coffee shop in Northern Virginia. Franklin had intelligence on hostile Iranian activities in Iraq and was extremely frustrated that he did not feel this intelligence was getting the attention and response it deserved. The intelligence included information that the Iranians had called all of their intelligence operatives who speak Arabic to southern Iraq, that it had moved their top operative for Afghanistan, a guy named Qudzi, to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, that its operatives were targeting Iraqi state oil facilities, and that Iranian agents were infiltrating into northern Iraq to target the Israelis written about in a report by Seymour Hersh. According to my source, Franklin passed the information to the individual from AIPAC with the hope it could reach people at higher levels of the US government who would act on it. AIPAC presented the information to Elliot Abrams in the NSC. They also presented the part that involved Israelis who might be targeted to the Israelis, with the motivation to protect Israeli lives.

A couple weeks ago, my source told me, he was visited by two agents of the FBI, who were asking about Franklin. My source couldn’t tell if Franklin was being investigated for possible wrongdoing, or if the FBI was visiting him because Franklin required some sort of higher level security clearance or clearance renewal, perhaps in order to get some sort of new position or posting abroad. My source soon after ran into another official from Feith's office, the polyglot Middle East expert and Bernard Lewis protege, Harold Rhode. My source mentioned the FBI meeting and asked Rhode if Franklin was in trouble. “It’s not clear,” Rhode allegedly told my source.

[Indeed, I have since learned that Rhode has been interviewed by the FBI, but not as a subject of the investigation] . . . .

It’s no secret that some prominent neoconservative officials like Doug Feith, Vice Presidential advisor David Wurmser, and the former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle are sympathetic to the government of Ariel Sharon and the Likud government. Feith, Wurmser and Perle co-authored the paper, A Clean Break, which advocated that Israel abandon the Oslo peace process. But Franklin, although a passionate advocate of regime change in Iran, is not really among them. From modest beginnings, Franklin reportedly put himself through school, earned a PhD, and is now the Pentagon’s top Iran analyst. It would be an irony if he were to be the target of an investigation into passing US intelligence to Israel.

A friend points out one other irony is that what the Pentagon official is alleged in the CBS report to have passed to AIPAC and the Israelis is essentially a diplomatic document that describes a draft US policy position to Iran; in other words -- hardly the crown jewels, and hardly enough to warrant wiretaps and surveillance of Aipac's offices, he says. "The Israelis can get that stuff by going directly to Condoleezza Rice." In other words, it's not deeply technical knowledge about US satellite technology, for instance, or information the Americans had gotten from the Jordanians, or information about say a possible secret US back channel to Hezbollah. He wonders if this case is not politically motivated. It's no secret as well that there's intense competition over who would be national security advisor in a second term Bush administration. Anything that taints Feith and Wolfowitz could benefit their internal Bush administration foes.
A single sentence in tonight's New York Times coverage ("Government officials suggested Friday that investigators were seeking the cooperation of the Pentagon official being investigated") leads Rozen to the obvious conclusion that, if the FBI is trying to flip Franklin, then higher-ups must be involved.

Friday night!

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