Monday, August 30, 2004
Isikoff and Hosenball reported in Newsweek yesterday that Pentagon Iran analyst Larry Franklin, suspected of slipping classified documents to Israel via AIPAC, had been cooperating with the FBI for over a month before news of the investigation broke. One other intriguing revelation -- the FBI had been carrying out surveillance on AIPAC well before Franklin stumbled into the picture:
Nearly a year and a half ago, agents were monitoring a conversation between an Israeli Embassy official and a lobbyist for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, as part of a probe into possible Israeli spying. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, in the description of one intelligence official, another American "walked in" to the lunch out of the blue. Agents at first didn't know who the man was. They were stunned to discover he was Larry Franklin, a desk officer with the Near East and South Asia office at the Pentagon.A New York Times story this morning suggests that the investigation has been seriously damaged:
The Pentagon official under suspicion of turning over classified information to Israel began cooperating with federal agents several weeks ago and was preparing to lead the authorities to contacts inside the Israeli government when the case became publicly known last week, government officials said Sunday.-- all of which would seem to confirm speculation (at Laura Rozen's site and elsewhere) that the Franklin story was leaked to CBS by someone who hoped to disrupt the investigation before it could go further. Or higher.
The disclosure of the inquiry late on Friday by CBS News revealed what had been for nearly a year a covert national security investigation conducted by the F.B.I., according to the officials, who said that news reports about the inquiry compromised important investigative steps, like the effort to follow the trail back to the Israelis.