U.S. officials have confirmed that a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington had several meetings with a Pentagon analyst who is under investigation by the FBI on suspicion of passing classified information about Iran to Israel.
Israeli officials were quick to deny allegations of espionage by Israel, claiming such contacts were common and that the U.S. and Israel routinely share secrets.
Israels foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said: Israel and the United States have intimate ties…and the information being exchanged is much more classified than any conversation that may have taken place.
The investigation of Pentagon staffer Lawrence Franklin, an analyst of Iranian affairs, is growing and taking on a life of its own. Franklin works in a Pentagon policy office headed by Douglas Feith, undersecretary for policy.
The Israeli diplomat was identified as Naor Gilon, who heads the political department at Israels Washington embassy and is a specialist on nuclear weapons proliferation. Israel contends Iran and its nuclear ambitions are the greatest threat to the Jewish state.
High-ranking members of the Bush administration have begun beating the drums for a pre-emptive strike against Irans alleged nuclear capability.
Shalom did not deny the contacts between Gilon and Franklin, but he said an investigation by the foreign ministry showed the entire staff had followed approved procedures.
The Israeli daily Maariv quoted Gilon as saying he did nothing wrong. My hands are clean, he said. I have nothing to hide. I acted according to the regulations.
Newsweek magazine recently reported that more than a year ago, the FBI was watching a meeting between an Israeli embassy official and a representative of the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the most powerful lobbying group in Washington.
AIPAC has been previously identified as the conduit for relaying classified information to the Israeli government. Newsweek reported U.S. intelligence officials told them that Franklin, on one occasion, tried to pass a classified U.S. policy document on Iran, but the Israeli diplomat would not accept it.
When the story first broke, the Anti Defamation League, handed out charges of anti-Semitism all around.
Feith, who worked in the Pentagon intelligence operation set up by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, has been accused by the Democrats of manipulating that information to support going to war against Iraq.
Other defenders of the Likud loyalists in the Pentagon also sprang to the defense. One is Mark Zell, a citizen of Israel and America, and a former law partner of Feith. He said: The pattern is that certain elements in the military and intelligence have a difficult time with the Pentagon leadership.
Editor of Chronicles magazine Dr. Thomas Fleming brings up some very interesting points in his upcoming exposé of the Neo-Cons. He says many have forgotten that Feith was fired by the National Security Council by National Security Adviser William Clark during President Ronald Reagans administration in 1983. At the time, Clark said there was an ongoing FBI investigation into Feiths activities. Clark said Feith had been the object of an inquiry into whether he had provided classified material to an official of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Six months later, Feith was rehired by Richard Pearle into the Department of Defense, Fleming said.
The New York Times recently reported that U.S. officials said Franklin had been cooperating with federal agents for several weeks. They said Franklin was about to lead them to several contacts inside the Israeli government when CBS News first reported on the investigation.
FBI agents have stepped up their probe of the senior members of the Pentagons former Office of Special Plans (OSP). In some cases, according to United Press, former associates, colleagues and members of other government agencies have been interviewed as many as four times.
Two of those questioned are Bill Luti, former chief of the OSP, and Harold Rhode of the Near East/South Asia office, investigators said. Luti is a former Navy captain who switched to the Pentagon after serving on the staff of Vice President Richard Cheney. Congressional memos state that Luti was made deputy undersecretary and reported directly to Feith.
Luti worked closely with OSP, which a congressional memo described as a loose group of acolytes and hired hands for Cheney, and Cheneys chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Feithall performing a mixture of intelligence, planning and other unspecified operational duties in support of preordained policy.
A veteran intelligence officer said while in Baghdad, Rhode practically lived out of (Ahmad) Chalabis office. He added that Rhode was observed by CIA operatives as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel and that the information agents heard him passing to Israel was mind-boggling.
Rhode is a member of an inner circle of senior Bush officials who have had several past skirmishes with the FBI over allegations that they furnished classified information to Israel.
The Israeli daily Haaretz, keeping a close eye on the investigations progress, commented: …documents could yet be uncovered for which Franklin served as a source, whether directly or indirectly. Moreover, as the investigation progresses, suspects confessions or polygraph tests could implicate Israel. In that case, Israel would appear to be a liar, even if its denials now are genuinely based on the best currently available information. And should Israel eventually hand over evidence against Franklin, it would appear to be a double traitorfirst against its benefactor, the U.S., and then against its agent.
Finally, even if official Israel proves innocent, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, AIPAC, has already been hurt, Haaretz reported.
Israeli spying is not a new story, it stretches back for several years. Before 9/11, federal agents had learned of a massive spy ring inside this country, operated by the government of Israel. This while U.S. taxpayers have been forced to send Israel more than four times what this country spent to go to the moon.
In return, Israel has established telecommunications companies operating in this country, which supply all U.S. phone systems with built-in wiretap equipment. The Israeli government is able to listen in on most U.S. telephones at its pleasure, using these phone taps, which are built into the system. They even taped the overheated calls between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Clinton ordered the FBI to halt its efforts to locate an Israeli mole operating inside the White House!
Lest you think this kind of activity is mainly benign, lets not forget Jonathan Pollard, a turncoat agent for the Israelis, who gave them our nuclear secrets.
Mark Weber, writing for the Institute For Historical Review, declares that no matter the outcome of the Franklin case, no significant change will occur in U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East.
Weber wrote: Support for the Zionist state in both the White House and the Congress is so fervent that Israel hardly needs bureaucrats such as Franklin to track the inner workings of the U.S. government. American policy is so tightly in the grip of politicians and government officials who are ardently dedicated to Israel and its interests that the Franklin case will make no difference.
Sources: sciforums.com, Haaretz, United Press International, The Australian, whatreallyhappened.com, Institute For Historical Review.