Thursday, April 27, 2006

[political-research] Weird Things about the AIPAC Case

The Next Hurrah

April 26, 2006

Weird Things about the AIPAC Case

by emptywheel

I've been thinking more about Condi's leaks--about the AIPAC case in general. And I'd like to raise a number of data points for discussion. You see, there have been numerous hints throughout the life of the case that "they" (whoever is the real target of this investigation) attempted to stem the damage by sacrificing Larry Franklin. Given that, it's really curious to find out now that Condi may have been involved in leaking information to AIPAC.

Does that mean Condi was always a target? Or that those who were targets (everyone's favorite Neocon characters) are also impugning Condi, as someone who can rescue Steve Rosen's case, but someone who is not so valuable she can't be lost? I'm not really sure; like I said, here are some data points.

Let's go back to the beginning. (Much of this chronology comes from the reporting Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen have done on this case.) The active investigation of Franklin started in July 2003. In May 2004, after the FBI caught Franklin leaking sensitive information to CBS reporter (and disgruntled former CIA employee) Adam Ciralsky, they flipped Franklin, and got him to wear a wire. News of the case was leaked in August 2004, serving to alert a bunch of people to the FBI's investigation (there are conflicting versions of who leaked the news of the investigation).

Just after the August leak of the investigation, the FBI interviewed a bunch of people. The stated purpose of at least some of those interviews was to determine whether anyone had authorized Larry Franklin to leak information to AIPAC.

Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary for policy, and Peter Rodman, assistant secretary for international security affairs, are among those who met with FBI agents on Sunday and Monday about the case, which has focused on contacts between a lower-level Pentagon analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), officials said.

Higher-ranking government officials have also been briefed about the FBI investigation in recent days, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell was briefed over the weekend during a telephone call by James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, and told his senior aides at a meeting yesterday to "cooperate in any way with any requests that might come from the investigators."

U.S. government officials familiar with the Pentagon interviews, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case, characterized them as an attempt by FBI investigators to determine whether Franklin received authorization from any superior to engage in the actions that investigators are probing. The FBI has been forced to accelerate its investigation since the case broke into public view through media reports Friday.


The list of those interviewed over the past several days runs from William J. Luti, who heads the section on Near East and South Asian affairs where Franklin is assigned as a desk officer on Iran, through Rodman and Feith. All told the FBI that they did not give Franklin permission to give AIPAC or the Israelis any of the material at issue, officials said. [emphasis mine]

So news of this case breaks open, and in the days when the FBI (led by the eminently principled James Comey) is frantically trying to salvage their larger case, they interview a bunch of people--including Colin Powell (with an intent, perhaps to interview Powell's "aides," which might include Bolton) Douglas Feith, and Bill Luti, among others. No mention if Condi was also interviewed at that time, nor of Stephen Hadley, Eliott Abrams, David Satterfield, William Burns, or General Zinni, who were all also subpoenaed by Weissman and Rosen. This is significant because Rosen has alleged that Condi also leaked information to him, and may have authorized the Franklin leaks. Rosen is making a claim that the FBI supposedly already investigated. Yet the Prosecutor is said to be surprised that Rosen is now subpoenaing Condi.

There's also the question of how much Condi knew about the investigation at this time. Apparently , this investigation was at least partly a response to Condi's determination to discover the source of a August 2001 leak.

On September 9, 2001, the New York Times published a story by then-State Department correspondent Jane Perlez, who reported a major shift in what had been the Bush Administration's rejection of the Clinton Administration's deep engagement in trying to broker a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Perlez reported that after months of refusing to meet with Yasir Arafat, George W. Bush would grant the Palestinian leader his first audience with the new US President at an upcoming UN General Assembly gathering in New York "if progress were made in high-level talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis." That meeting between Bush and Arafat never happened. Two days after the Times story appeared, Al Qaeda terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people.

In the aftermath of those attacks, few people recalled that for a brief moment in the late summer of 2001, the Bush Administration had considered meeting with Arafat and deepening its political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Everyone forgot, except the FBI. According to a recent report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it was that September 2001 news article, based on leaks of sensitive Administration deliberations, that prompted then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to demand an FBI leak investigation that has since taken on a dramatic life of its own.

And Condi and Hadley were informed by at least September 2002 generally that the FBI considered AIPAC "a possible conduit for information to Israel." I have no idea how accurate these dates are, but they're worth keeping in mind. Condi is reported to be the source of this investigation, and have known that the FBI had concerns that AIPAC was acting as an intelligence conduit to Israel fully 2 years before the FBI interviewed people about authorizing Franklin leaks.

In that period just after the investigation became public, on August 27, 2004, Ashcroft put Paul McNulty in charge of the case, allegedly to handle the investigation of AIPAC "properly." McNulty has since been promoted to Deputy Attorney General. And in early September 2004, it was reported that Bush was being pressured to keep the investigation at a low level.

This is all significant because of the back and forth over whether the "they" that are the real subject of this investigation would help the accused mount defenses, or not.

In early September, Larry Franklin's court-appointed lawyer had almost succeeded in negotiating a plea deal for him. But by early October, he fired his court-appointed lawyer, stopped cooperating, and through the intervention of Michael Ledeen, hired Fawn Hall's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, purportedly working pro bono.

At about this time, Franklin received a call from Michael Ledeen, his ally in matters of Iran policy. “I called him and said, ‘Larry, what’s going on?’ ” Ledeen recalled. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. Sharansky’ ”—Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident—“ ‘survived years in the Gulag, and I’ll survive prison, too.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He told me what was going on. I asked him if he had a good lawyer.” Ledeen called the criminal-defense attorney Plato Cacheris.


Cacheris offered to represent Franklin pro bono, and Franklin accepted the offer.

It doesn't take much imagination to suppose that "they" decided they needed to defend Franklin--or at least control the timing and nature of any plea agreement. Cacheris' involvement may not have done Franklin any good, in the end. In October 2005, Franklin plead guilty and effectively became the chief witness against Rosen and Weissman. And he was convicted to serve 12 years of prison time. (It might be worth noting that he is frequently referred to as a kind of a space cadet in coverage of this case, which may have made him an easy mark for both the FBI and those trying to control the damage.)

AIPAC, meanwhile, tried to manage the fallout of this delicately. It didn't want to be accused of spying or be forced to register as an agent of a foreign government. By December 2004, the investigation closed in on Steven Rosen, AIPAC was searched under warrant, and a number of AIPAC staffers were subpoenaed. Finally, in March 2005, after hearing a bit of the evidence against Rosen and Weissman, AIPAC's lawyer recommended that AIPAC fire them; shortly thereafter in April, AIPAC began to negotiate severance packages for Rosen and Keith Weissman. While AIPAC has paid their legal fees (I'm not sure they still are, though), rather than defending its staffers, AIPAC chose to insulate itself from the larger investigation. There were complaints about this at the recent AIPAC conference, that AIPAC was doing too little to defend Rosen and Weissman.

But by hanging Rosen and Weissman out to dry, AIPAC has seemingly made the others involved in this ring more vulnerable. It incents Rosen and Weissman, for example, to implicate others at AIPAC.

“It appears they’ve abandoned their own on the battlefield,” he says. “Because they cut Steve off, they leave him no choice.” Indyk wouldn’t elaborate, but the implication was clear: Rosen and Weissman will defend themselves by arguing that they were working in concert with the highest officials of the organization, including Kohr.

How curious, though, that rather arguing they were working in concert with Douglas Feith, Bill Luti, or any of the other names raised in association with this case (Perle and Wolfie, among others), they're arguing that they were working in concert with Condi Rice or Anthony Zinni. Rice, who apparently launched this whole probe and who is now advocating diplomacy in places like Syria where some would prefer regime change. Or Anthony Zinni, who is a strong (and credible) critic of the larger Neocon Middle East project. And there's one more person who was subpoenaed--one that has received little attention--but one that should raise questions about the kinds of people Rosen and Weissman are subpoenaing: Richard Armitage. As I said in December wrt the rumor that Armitage was Novak's primary source in the Plame Affair,

One of the biggest reasons I question the Armitage speculation, as floated, is because of a little game the Neocons play, akin to and about as serious as "Where's Waldo." You see, Armitage is one of the Neocon's favorite whipping boys. When they want to deflect blame or just have some fun, they throw in a gratuitous Armitage accusation.

Since Zinni says he has met Rosen only once in his life, I do wonder how gratuitous these accusations are. I rather suspect they are meant to cast suspicion on some of the enemies of the "they" behind the larger patterns of leakage.

Larry Franklin is small potatoes. Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman may or may not be small potatoes, but the present case against them is so dependent on new legal applications of espionage laws, it doesn't stand much chance of holding up. The real big (known) potatoes in this story are totally removed from it. There's Naor Gilon, whom Franklin provided information and who was recalled to Israel before the FBI could interview him. And there are allegations of more, much more damaging information being shared by some of the more prominent members of the Neocon cabal:

At the same time, another Pentagon office concerned with the transfer of sensitive military and dual-use technologies has been examining the acquisition, modification and sales of key hi-tech military equipment by Israel obtained from the United States, in some cases with the help of prominent neo-conservatives who were then serving in the government.

Some of that equipment has been sold by Israel – which in the last 20 years has become a top exporter of the world's most sophisticated hi-tech information and weapons technology – or by Israeli middlemen, to Russia, China and other potential U.S. strategic rivals. Some of it has also found its way onto the black market, where terrorist groups – possibly including al-Qaeda – obtained bootlegged copies, according to these sources.

So I wonder whether the allegations that Condi leaked don't have more to do with an attempt to punish perceived rivals of the cabal behind the leaks even while protecting that cabal from the larger investigation.

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