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The Franklin Affair


Spying for Israel seems such a silly way of putting it. So does passing secrets. Espionage. And the like. As if, in real world terms, there were a wall or barrier of some kind categorically separating these two states and historical projects. As if, moreover, we ever could refer to an American national interest as well as an Israeli national interest, with each of these two entities possessing something called a relationship based on them, the Americans and the Israelis alike having interests not only in the Middle East, but in the strength of their relationship.

Mole is an even bigger howler. Suppose somebody—Larry Franklin being the man of the weekend—in the U.S. Department of Defense‘s office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Mr. Douglas J. Feith (a bona fide creep, this one), passed a draft of a National Security Presidential Directive pertaining to U.S. policy toward Iran along to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and AIPAC, in turn, passed the document along to the Israeli Government, in the hope of gaining some Israeli help in fashioning U.S. policy towards Iran back in the States–the core of the charge circulating this weekend. What then?

As far as the operations of the U.S. Government in its higher offices are concerned, do you believe the scenario as just described would be (a) highly atypical, (b) fairly atypical, (c) fairly typical, (d) highly typical, or (e) no opinion?

We might extend this line of analogy much further. Indeed. As far as we like. Wouldn’t this be like somebody in the Pentagon’s procurement offices passing future budgetary projections along to some of the upper-management at Lockheed-Martin or Boeing, say, and these entities (Can’t really call them businesses, can we? After all, it’s not as if they really are separate and distinct from the Pentagon and its R&D and procurement dollars—as Seymour Melman reminds us about the institutions of American state capitalism.) then passing the documents along to the U.S. Department of State? (The Department of State on this latter analogy being roughly as foreign to the U.S. Government as the Government of Israel is.)

Again. As far as the operations of the U.S. Government in its higher offices are concerned, do you believe the scenario as just described would be (a) highly atypical, (b) fairly atypical, (c) fairly typical, (d) highly typical, or (e) no opinion?

I think a lot of guys like to play James Bond. And talk about moles and espionage and spying and all of that. But to me, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy “spy” allegations look a lot more routine. Positively pedestrian, in fact. Hearing and reading them over and over this weekend, I once again feel compelled to invoke the lines from the old wartime Hollywood movie, Casablanca:

CAPTAIN RENAULT: I am shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on here!

Friends: Where this “special relationship” is concerned, the “boundaries of accepted diplomatic contact” are vast and protean. Clearly.

The Government in Tel Aviv was quick to respond to the allegations that have got the Americans so hot and bothered. (Incidentally, I still can’t find a copy of the Friday, August 27, CBS-TV newscast that was the first to conduit the leak about the Neocons who have stolen our democracy from us and used American Power for such unvirtuous ends as to be tougher on the Iranians that the Iranians deserve. So if anyone else finds a copy, please pass it along.)

“This is an American political story, and election story, a pre-convention story to try to slander and criticize U.S. President George W. Bush,” Israeli radio quoted an unnamed source within the Sharon Government as saying. “It has nothing to do with us.” (“Israel described suspected espionage as ‘internal US political story,” Xinhua, Aug. 29.)

With the exception of the badly misplaced word ‘slander’ here (in point of fact, this filthy regime belongs behind bars), I think the emphasis on the Franklin Affair being an internal American one is pretty much right. Writing in today’s Ha’aretz, Aluf Benn echoed this line of response. “Israeli sources assume Franklin fell victim to power struggles in the Pentagon,” Benn noted, “between the professional level and the political appointments of the ‘neocons’. The probe against him and its leaking were intended to weaken the political group, whose image was already tainted by the entanglement in Iraq.” Otherwise, Benn elaborates, “The Franklin affair has all the ingredients of a conspiracy theory, implying that Israel manipulated the Bush administration to further its own interests and dragged America into a superfluous war on Iraq through a group of ‘neo-conservative’ Jews at the top of the Pentagon, and with the power of enchantment AIPAC casts over Capitol Hill.” (“The Franklin affair will damage Israel’s image,” Aug. 29.)

Another commentator, writing in the Israeli media on Saturday, but now anonymously, laid one possible scenario as follows (“Israeli Report Views Effects of US Spying Claims on Bush-Sharon Ties,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, Aug. 28—for a copy, see below):

The timing of the disclosure should be instructive. Was it leaked for the ulterior motive of hurting the Bush run for re-election against Senator John Kerry, by suggesting that his key decisions on the Iraqi war were determined not only by the neo-cons of his administration but by a foreign mole? Or was the motive quite different? Might it not have been designed for showing the president as having rid himself of the influence of the Pentagon team and Israel by the very fact of the probe against that team, Israel and its foremost Washington lobbyist AIPAC?

This tactic is not unknown. A former Republican president, Ronald Reagan, though indisputably a friend of Israel, fought hard against AIPAC over the sale of US AWACs to Saudi Arabia and dealt harshly with the spy Pollard.

If the White House is indeed conforming to this pattern, it would mean that the Bush administration has given up on Sharon and his chances of forcing through his disengagement plans and is ready to drop their collaborative relations.

Well. My hunch is that the first answer to the question of the “timing” of the leak—roughly 72 hours before the start of the Republican National Convention and, more important, at the start of the winner-take-all phase of the campaign—comes closer to the truth than the second. But at least it’s good to know that some commentators are worldly enough not to confuse the routine with the scandalous.

Back in the States—aside from the “unnamed government officials” that have driven the reporting so far—everybody has either declined to comment, citing the excuse of an ongoing investigation and the need to allow it to run its course, or said next-to-nothing. As best I can tell, the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s website has yet to post one word on this investigation—and news about it has been in circulation now for close to 48 hours. As of this last Sunday in August, the FBI’s “Headline Archives” for the month terminate with a Press Release dated August 27: “OPERATION ‘WEB SNARE’: Tightening the Net on Cyber Criminals,” wherein we read about a “coordinated takedown of suspects in more than 160 cyber-crime cases,” including one “Los Angeles-area man allegedly stole thousands of valid e-mail addresses from a previous employer and sold them online. He was also a ‘wireless spammer’, driving around LA using unsecured residential wireless networks to broadcast pornography ads from his laptop.” But not a word about the DoD investigation. (Not yet. Anyway.)

The same appears to hold true for the U.S. Department of Defense, too. Thus, for three consecutive days running (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), here’s all that I’ve found: “DoD has been cooperating with the Department of Justice on this matter for an extended period of time. It is the DoD understanding that the investigation within the DoD is limited in its scope.” (“DoD Response to CBS Report,” Aug. 28, 2004.) Separately, the DoD also informs us that “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz have no public or media events on their schedules” (Aug. 28-29). Conveniently, of course. Their shuttle from the moon isn’t scheduled to dock in New York City at least until sometime Monday.

Not so the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, however. Here we find a brief little document titled “AIPAC Statement on Recent Events.” (AIPAC, it appears, has been sufficiently thrown into a tizzy by the allegations that it has posted this “Statement” in place of the usual route of access to its homepage. At least for now, anyway, when you try to access AIPAC’s homepage, the “Statement” is what you’ll find. You are then instructed to “click here to enter web site” before the AIPAC website will permit you to proceed further.)

“AIPAC is fully cooperating with the governmental authorities,” the statement asserts. “As American citizens concerned about the enduring strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, AIPAC has and will continue to have discussions with policymakers at all levels of government,” it continues, cutting through the chaff. “We will not let any innuendo or false allegation against AIPAC distract us from our central mission-supporting America’s interests in the Middle East and advocating for a strong relationship with Israel.”

(Pssst. The punchline here would be that AIPAC already has been accused of cooperating too fully with the governmental authorities to begin with. But I won’t tell if you won’t tell.)

As for Douglas Feith, whose office is the Ground Zero of the current allegations—and who, far more gravely, has the blood of every person slain during his state’s imperial war over Iraq smeared up and down his office?

I still can see Douglas Feith—Or was it John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security? Or William Kristol, one of the brains behind the Project for the New American Century‘s “pre-emptive” blood-lust as well as its proposals to advance the military exploitation of outer space, a soft-spoken and impeccably cultivated gentleman’s gentleman whose demeanor cries out “Himmler” in all its civilized barbarity—in John Pilger’s documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (2003), fumbling to answer questions about the stated-justifications for invading Afghanistan, and the death toll among civilians there, the interview abruptly terminated by a uniformed American military executive standing just off-the-edge of the frame.

“Afterwards, you could not cut the atmosphere with a chain saw,” Pilger tells me. “The colonel ordered us to stay where we were until he escorted Dougie back to his office. ‘You must not leave without my permission and escort’, the colonel said. This of course presented an immediate challenge, and carrying our considerable film gear, we set out in the labyrinth of the Pentagon, found a young Navy ensign, who showed us an escape route. I can still hear the colonel’s irate voice on my mobile: ‘Where are you? You have not had permission’!”

How’s this for civilian control of the military?

FYA (“For your archives’): Am depositing here a small sample of what the news media have produced over the past 48 hours on the allegation that (as it stands this moment, and simplifying), Larry Franklin, an Iran “specialist” working under Douglas Feith at the Department of Defense forwarded a draft of a National Security Presidential Directive pertaining to Iran along to Israeli Government figures, either directly or through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in the hope that the Israeli Government would use the information to influence American policy towards Iran, and steer policy in a direction more to Israel’s liking.

BBC Monitoring International Reports
August 28, 2004
HEADLINE: ISRAELI REPORT VIEWS EFFECTS OF US SPYING CLAIMS ON BUSH-SHARON TIES

Text of unattributed “special analysis” in English entitled “Suspected Israeli spy in Pentagon: first the leak, then the fall-out” published by Israeli DEBKAfile web site on 28 August

It is very likely that one or more arrests will ensue from the leaked report run by CBS News Friday, 27 August, of a high-profile FBI probe against a Pentagon official on suspicion of passing secrets to Israel through two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Without such arrests, the report would lose its credibility.

The vigorous denials by Israel and AIPAC indicate that both expect the reported investigation to move into the detention stage. Within hours of the first disclosure, the name of Larry Franklin, a desk officer-analyst who works with two top Pentagon officials, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, turned up “unofficially” in the Washington Post as the suspected Israeli mole. So, too, did the name Dave Szady, as head of the FBI inquiry team.

Depending on who is arrested and the nature of the charges, the investigation is fraught with a high degree of damage to President George W. Bush’s Middle East policy and his core advisory team, eight weeks before he stands for re-election. Already, there are marks of strain in US-Israel relations and Bush’s ties with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon are bound to be affected. The harm is visible even before the investigation has determined whether it will lead to a charge of espionage or lesser offences of improper disclosure or the mishandling of classified materials.

An AIPAC official said to the Washington Post: “Our folks are pretty outraged about this. We’ve had these kinds of accusations before and none of them has ever proven to be true.” The pro-Israel lobby has categorically denied the accusation against two of its employees but prepared for the worst by hiring outside counsel.

The Pentagon quickly asserted that the suspected official was in no position to influence US policy and the investigation in the department was very limited in scope. Jerusalem officials heatedly maintained that no Israeli intelligence-gathering resources had been active in Washington for many years.

These statements are but initial knee-jerk reactions to the first disclosure in the pre-arrest stage of the affair. But even the first report is remarkable for its multi-targeted sweep. Impugned is the top policy advisory level of the Department of Defence – from Deputy Defence Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, through Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defence for policy and William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary of defence for Near East and South Asian affairs. He oversaw the Pentagon’s “Office of Special Plans,” which conducted some early policy work for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, including issues of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Husayn’s links to Al-Qa’idah.

The unit’s work is a vital White House policy tool on the Iran question as well as Iraq. It is one of the two Pentagon offices that Bush administration critics accused Pentagon hawks of setting up to bypass the CIA and other intelligence arms. The possibility cannot be ruled out that by levelling a single sensational accusation, some American intelligence element believing itself sidelined struck out against Bush, his top team and his policies by the simple device of tarring Israel and the influential organization representing its cause in Washington – in one fell swoop.

Without being spelt out, the implication has been planted that, 19 years after the Jonathan Pollard affair, Israel is still running moles to dig out American secrets in order to manipulate US policies for its own rather than American interests. The media will recall that some of Pollard’s intelligence-military controllers had been allies of Ariel Sharon in his former service as defence minister. If Franklin is proved beyond doubt to have been an Israeli spy and the two AIPAC employees his contacts for transferring secrets to Israel, Sharon will automatically come under a cloud, inferentially accused of harking back to his old ways. All this innuendo will cause Israel incalculable damage in the United States, even before the FBI establishes whether or not it has a case.

Therefore, the way the new spy sensation unfolds is important as much for its political fall-out and nuanced marginal notes as for the legal case.

The timing of the disclosure should be instructive. Was it leaked for the ulterior motive of hurting the Bush run for re-election against Senator John Kerry, by suggesting that his key decisions on the Iraqi war were determined not only by the neo-cons of his administration but by a foreign mole? Or was the motive quite different? Might it not have been designed for showing the president as having rid himself of the influence of the Pentagon team and Israel by the very fact of the probe against that team, Israel and its foremost Washington lobbyist AIPAC?

This tactic is not unknown. A former Republican president, Ronald Reagan, though indisputably a friend of Israel, fought hard against AIPAC over the sale of US AWACs to Saudi Arabia and dealt harshly with the spy Pollard.

If the White House is indeed conforming to this pattern, it would mean that the Bush administration has given up on Sharon and his chances of forcing through his disengagement plans and is ready to drop their collaborative relations.

A falling out between Bush and Sharon would cause great celebration in Tehran. Even the initial disclosure must have given Iran’s hard-line clerics cause to rub their hands in glee after a highly profitable week. Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile system missed its aim against a Scud missile performing similarly to their Shihab-3, the weapon that is the backbone of Iran’s deterrent force against American military forces in Iraq and its insurance against Israel demolishing their nuclear weapons production facilities. Two days later, the Israeli mole in the Pentagon affair erupted, an event that will be seen in Tehran as tying the Bush administration’s hands in a way that will hamper its ability to take action against Iran’s advancing nuclear weapons programme.

Source: DEBKAfile web site, Jerusalem, in English 28 Aug 04

Haaretz
August 29, 2005
Analysis: The Franklin affair will damage Israel’s image
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

Judging from the weekend reports on the investigation against Pentagon man Larry Franklin, who is suspected of passing classified material to Israel via AIPAC people, it appears talk of a “mole” in the administration and comparisons to the Pollard affair are highly exaggerated.

But regardless of the findings, the Franklin affair will cause serious damage to Israel’s image and obstruct its working relations with the administration.

The timing, in the runup to presidential elections and on the eve of the Republican Party convention, exacerbates the problem.

The Franklin affair has all the ingredients of a conspiracy theory, implying that Israel manipulated the Bush administration to further its own interests and dragged America into a superfluous war on Iraq through a group of “neo-conservative” Jews at the top of the Pentagon, and with the power of enchantment AIPAC casts over Capitol Hill.

Those who want to bash Israel will use Franklin’s investigation and his ties to Israel and its supporters as proof of their arguments. On the practical level, there is no doubt that the affair will deter American officials, who will think twice before talking to Israeli colleagues for fear of getting entangled in inquiries and surveillance.

AIPAC, which always takes pains to portray itself as an American organization that works for American interests and does not take instructions from Jerusalem, might suffer the hardest blow. The organization’s image will be tarnished and administration officials will wary of returning calls from its representatives.

Israeli officials say that the affair will not cloud the relations with the U.S. in the long term, especially if the suspicions are groundless. But it reveals once again that under the friendship and closeness between Jerusalem and Washington, there are undercurrents of suspicion that have not healed since the Pollard affair in the ’80s.

According to the Israeli version, Franklin’s working relations with Israeli diplomats did not exceed the acceptable ties with many other officials in the administration and in other states. He did not play a covert role and the meetings with him were in the sphere of practical diplomacy and exchanging information and evaluations.

The Franklin case is not the first to arouse suspicions of excessive cooperation with Israel in Washington. Three years ago a similar suspicion was raised of a desk clerk in the State Department who had working relations with Israeli representatives. Someone suspected the friendship was too close and the man was suspended, interrogated, and suffered greatly before the case was closed. Since then he became wary and stopped talking with Israeli contacts – they too kept their distance.

Israel’s representatives in Washington get quite a few briefings on formulating policy regarding the Middle East in talks with their contact people in the administration. Israeli officials who meet foreign diplomats or journalists also give them material originating in classified documents and inside consultations and nobody suspects them of espionage.

Israeli sources assume Franklin fell victim to power struggles in the Pentagon, between the professional level and the political appointments of the “neocons.” The probe against him and its leaking were intended to weaken the political group, whose image was already tainted by the entanglement in Iraq.

The inquiry is being conducted only in the United States at present, and Israel has not been asked for comment, information, or testimonies.

Sources in the bureaus of the prime minister and defense and foreign ministers said that after the publication they conducted an extensive internal examination, which completely refuted any espionage allegations.

“Israel is not aware of having received information from this man,” a Jerusalem source said. “Nobody used him, people hardly knew him, and we don’t understand this fantasy,” another source said. “Since the Pollard affair, no intelligence man would dare think of gathering information in the U.S.”

However, even if the Franklin affair comes to nothing, Israel had better examine itself carefully. More caution will need to be exercised in contacts with American officials, who might be susceptible to accusations of having excessive affinity with Israel.

Independent on Sunday (London)
August 29, 2004, Sunday
SECTION: First Edition; FOREIGN NEWS; Pg. 18
HEADLINE: US-ISRAELI RELATIONS STRAINED AS PENTAGON OFFICIAL INVESTIGATED OVER ESPIONAGE CLAIM
BYLINE: CURT ANDERSON IN WASHINGTON AND ERIC SILVER IN JERUSALEM

In an espionage investigation that could strain US-Israeli relations and muddy the Bush administration’s Middle East policy, the FBI is investigating whether a Pentagon analyst fed to Israel secret materials about White House deliberations on Iran.

No arrests have so far been made, federal law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation, but an arrest in the case could come as early as next week.

The officials refused to identify the Pentagon employee under investigation but said the person is an analyst in the office of Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defence for policy and the Pentagon’s number three. The link to his office also could prove politically embarrassing for the Bush administration.

Mr Feith is an influential aide to Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, who works on a number of sensitive issues including US policy towards Iraq and Iran. His office includes a cadre assigned specifically to work on Iran.

He also oversaw the Pentagon’s defunct Office of Special Plans, which critics said fed policy-makers uncorroborated pre-war intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, especially purported ties with the al-Qa’ida terror network. Pentagon officials have said the office was a small operation that provided fresh analysis on existing intelligence.

The Pentagon investigation has included wire-tapping and surveillance and searches of the suspected Pentagon employee’s computer, officials said.

The Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem denied the claims. “They are completely false and outrageous,” a spokesman said. A senior official was quietly confident that the whole affair would blow over within days once the facts came out. “We’re not involved in this,” he told The Independent on Sunday. “Israel has no connection with it.”

Referring to the case of Jonathan Pollard, the US navy intelligence analyst who was arrested in 1985 and is serving a life sentence for passing classified documents to Israel, the official added: “We had one lesson. We’re not going to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Yossi Melman, a writer on Israeli intelligence, was equally dismissive. “Israel,” he said, “has not spied on the United States since Pollard. It does not recruit, it does not run agents and it does not pay for information. If there is any grain of truth in the story, maybe this guy passed information to Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main pro- Israel lobby group in Washington . Aipac shares its information and analyses with the Israeli embassy. That’s what it’s supposed to do. But it would not usually name its source.”

Aipac also denies any allegations of receiving secrets about the Bush administration’s position on Iran from a Pentagon analyst and then passing them to the Israeli government.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the investigation involves an employee at “the desk officer level, who was not in a position to have significant influence over US policy. Nor could a foreign power be in a position to influence US policy through this individual.”

But one of the law enforcement officials said that while the person was not in a policy-making position they had access to extremely sensitive information about US policy on Iran.

While President Bush identified Iran as part of an “axis of evil” along with North Korea and Saddam’s Iraq, the administration has battled internally over how hard a line to take towards the country. The State Department has generally advocated more moderate positions, while more conservative officials in the Defence Department and the White House’s National Security Council have advocated tougher policies.

Israel has worked to push the Bush administration to take a firm line against Iran. But its tactics have raised questions over whether inside information may have been used to try to influence US policy.

Los Angeles Times
August 29, 2004 Sunday
Home Edition
SECTION: MAIN NEWS; National Desk; Part A; Pg. 1
HEADLINE: The World;
Report on Iran Key to Spying Inquiry;
Investigators are looking closely at Pentagon policy analyst Larry Franklin’s relationships with advocates for Israel.
BYLINE: Mark Mazzetti and Richard B. Schmitt, Times Staff Writers
DATELINE: WASHINGTON

The man at the center of an FBI investigation into possible Israeli espionage in Washington is a career Pentagon employee, a colonel in the Air Force reserves and a national security analyst who at the end of the Cold War taught himself Farsi and refashioned himself as an expert on Iran, officials said Saturday.

The FBI is trying to determine whether he is also a spy.

U.S. officials confirmed Saturday that the target of the investigation was Larry Franklin, the Pentagon’s top Iran policy analyst and a confidant of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, who, as undersecretary for policy, was the Pentagon’s third-ranking official.

The FBI is trying to ascertain whether Franklin turned over a draft presidential directive on policy toward Iran last year to two people affiliated with the Washington-based American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which may have given the information to Israel.

Officials are concerned because the directive was still being debated by U.S. policymakers at the time, possibly putting the Israeli government in a position to influence the final document, officials said. U.S. policy toward Iran is vital to Israel, which is gravely concerned about the expanding nuclear capability of the country run by Shiite Muslim clerics.

The probe, which is being handled by the FBI’s counter- espionage division, might not result in espionage charges against Franklin.

Instead, the Pentagon analyst could be charged with lesser offenses such as improper disclosure or mishandling of classified information. Or he could be exonerated.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the case expressed doubts Saturday that Franklin’s alleged actions rose to the level of espionage. Instead, he said it was more likely that Franklin, who maintains close ties with Israeli officials, passed documents to Israel without knowing the seriousness of his actions.

“From everything I’ve seen, the guy’s not a spy,” the official said. “The guy’s an idiot.”

According to the official, the closeness of the U.S. relationship with Israel means that top officials of the two nations often share sensitive information. Nevertheless, Franklin should have known what information was and was not permissible to be shared, he said.

“We knew this guy had the relationship for a while, and he shared some stuff beyond what he should be sharing,” the official said.

Franklin did not respond to phone messages Saturday seeking comment.

Sources said that Franklin, a longtime official with the Defense Intelligence Agency, three years ago joined the Pentagon’s Office of Near East and South Asian Affairs, the group charged with developing the Pentagon’s policy for the Middle East. The office is run by William J. Luti, who in turn reports to Feith.

Since joining Luti’s office, Franklin has been the Pentagon’s leading Iran policy analyst, a job that took on greater importance after President Bush included Iran in his “axis of evil” and his appointees at the Pentagon advocated a hard line toward Iran.

As a member of the Air Force reserves, Franklin is assigned to a DIA reserve unit based in Washington.

A Pentagon statement released Friday characterized Franklin as a “desk officer” with no significant influence on U.S. policy. Yet some who have worked with him offer a different picture, saying he was very influential in high-level Pentagon policy debates.

“You’re not talking about someone toiling away in the bowels of the U.S. government,” said a former Pentagon official who worked for Feith until last year and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Franklin was the go-to guy on Iran issues for Wolfowitz and Feith.”

In addition, the former official characterized Franklin as an ideological ally of Wolfowitz, Feith and Luti. The three men were among the Bush administration’s leading advocates of war with Iraq, and the Middle East policy office and the Office of Special Plans, both of which reported to Luti, produced analyses bolstering the U.S. case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Their analysis wasn’t whether we should invade Iraq, but whether we should do it on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday,” the former official said.

FBI investigators fear that Franklin — given his influential position and high-level security clearance — may have been in a position to compromise government information about Iraq and the U.S. war effort.

Sometime after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Franklin took a secret trip to Rome with Harold Rhode, another civilian official in the Pentagon, to meet with Iranian dissidents who reportedly promised to provide information to them that would aid the U.S.-declared war on terrorism.

One of the dissidents the pair spoke to was Manucher Ghorbanifar, an arms dealer and former Iranian spy who was a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

The White House blessed the trip. Yet when news of the meeting leaked two years later, officials said they had not known that Ghorbanifar would be among the dissidents Franklin and Rhode met.

According to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, that meeting and a subsequent one between Rhode and Ghorbanifar “went nowhere.”

Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington who specializes in Mideast affairs, arranged the contacts between the Pentagon officials and the Iranian dissidents, which he said led to American lives being saved in Afghanistan.

Asked Saturday for comment on the investigation, Ledeen said he expected the FBI probe to yield nothing incriminating about Franklin, whom Ledeen has known for years.

“I don’t believe Larry Franklin would ever do anything improper with classified information,” said Ledeen, who worked as a consultant to the National Security Council and the State and Defense departments during the administration of Ronald Reagan.

Ledeen said the information Franklin was suspected of transferring was well known among foreign policy observers. The U.S. had not developed a coherent Iran policy, he said, and the divergent views of various administration officials were publicly known and available.

“There is no American policy on Iran,” Ledeen said. “What is he telling them? What can there possibly be that is classified about American policy on Iran that we do not know about from the public debate?”

Franklin and Rhode also have close ties with Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, whose Iraqi National Congress was the dissident organization most favored by Pentagon officials during Hussein’s rule.

Chalabi met often with top officials at the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office to advocate regime change in Iraq.

Chalabi himself has been investigated by American officials in connection with the transmission of U.S. secrets to Iran. It is unclear whether the investigations into Franklin and Chalabi are connected.

The New York Times
August 29, 2004 Sunday
Late Edition – Final
SECTION: Section 1; Column 1; National Desk; Pg. 1
HEADLINE: F.B.I. Said to Reach Official Suspected Of Passing Secrets
BYLINE: By JAMES RISEN
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, Aug. 28

The F.B.I. is in communication with a Pentagon official suspected of passing secrets to Israel and is seeking to gain his cooperation in their espionage investigation, government officials said.

The Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, a midlevel analyst who works in the policy office of the Defense Department, has been in contact with investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, officials said. It could not be learned whether he was talking with the bureau directly or through a lawyer.

Government officials say they suspect that Mr. Franklin provided classified documents to officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, and that the group in turn handed the materials over to Israeli intelligence. Both the lobbying group and the Israeli government have denied any misconduct. [Page 23.]

Mr. Franklin could not be located for comment.

Government officials who have been briefed on the investigation said investigators had unspecified evidence that Mr. Franklin provided the Israelis with a sensitive report about American policy toward Iran, along with other materials. Mr. Franklin focused on Iranian issues in his work.

No arrests have been made in the case, however, and the F.B.I. apparently is seeking more information from Mr. Franklin. The investigation has been going on for more than a year, government officials said.

Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who is a friend of Mr. Franklin, said Saturday that he believed the accusations were baseless.

”I don’t believe a word of it,” Mr. Ledeen said. ”This story is incoherent, it makes no sense. Anyone who wanted to know about U.S. policy on Iran could just read The New York Times.”

The work done in the Pentagon’s policy offices often involves regional strategic planning like deliberations on what stance the government should take in dealing with other countries. A little more than a year ago, one policy pushed from within the Pentagon would have relied on covert support for Iranian resistance groups to destabilize Iran’s powerful clergy. In internal deliberations, some even raised the possibility of a military strike against an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The ideas, reported in the news media at the time, came up in the context of developing a draft directive outlining the administration’s overall policy toward the regime in Tehran.

American policy toward Iran is now of critical importance to Israel, which is increasingly concerned by evidence that Tehran has accelerated its program to develop a nuclear weapon. The Bush administration has become concerned that Israel might move militarily against Iran’s nuclear complex.

The investigation is the latest embarrassing incident involving Pentagon employees. In June, federal investigators began administering polygraph examinations to civilian Pentagon employees to determine who may have disclosed classified information to Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile leader who was once a close ally of the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials have said that they are cooperating in the investigation regarding Israel. But some senior officials in the policy branch were not informed about it until Friday night, after it was reported on evening television news programs.

A government official who has been briefed on the investigation said that F.B.I. officials had earlier expressed an interest in interviewing two of Mr. Franklin’s superiors, Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, although there is no sign that they are a focus of the investigation.

It could not be learned whether the F.B.I. had decided to go ahead with those interviews.

Former government officials have also been contacted by the F.B.I. in recent days, apparently in an effort to gain a better understanding of the relationships among conservative officials with strong ties to Israel.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said that it was ”cooperating fully with the governmental authorities” and had ”provided documents and information to the government and has made staff available for interviews.”

One of the group’s priorities is stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear arms and other unconventional weapons.

The 65,000-member group has long been regarded as one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, cultivating close ties in Republican and Democratic administrations alike.

As recently as May, President Bush singled out the group for calling attention to ”the great security challenges of our time,” which include the ”threat posed by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The F.B.I. inquiry is considered sensitive because of the case’s potential political implications.

Mr. Feith and the work done under him have been the focus of intense criticism over the past year as questions have mounted about the justification for the war in Iraq. Before the war, Mr. Feith created a small intelligence unit that sought to build a case for Iraq’s ties to Al Qaeda, an effort that has since been disputed by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Questions have also repeatedly been raised about work done by members of Mr. Feith’s staff that skirted the normal bureaucracy. For example, Mr. Franklin participated in secret meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian who had acted as an arms deal middleman in the Iran-contra affair during the Reagan administration.

The secret meetings were first held in Rome in December 2001 and were brokered by Mr. Ledeen. He said he arranged the meetings to put the Bush administration in closer contact with Iranian dissidents who could provide information in the war on terrorism. But Mr. Ledeen said Saturday that Mr. Franklin was always skeptical that the back-channel meetings were useful.

Current and former defense officials said on Saturday that Mr. Franklin worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency until about three years ago, when he moved to the Pentagon’s policy office, headed by Mr. Feith, to work on Iran and other Middle East issues.

Former colleagues said that Mr. Franklin was a Soviet analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who transferred to the Middle East division in the early 1990′s. He learned Farsi and became an Iran analyst, developing extensive contacts among Iranians who opposed the Tehran government.

”He was a good analyst of the Iranian political scene, but he was also someone who would go off on his own,” said one former defense colleague.

Although Mr. Franklin worked as a Middle East policy officer, a defense official said he had no effect on United States policy and few dealings with senior Pentagon officials like Mr. Wolfowitz. At one point in the run-up to the Iraq war in early 2003, Mr. Franklin was brought in to help arrange meetings between Mr. Wolfowitz and Shiite and Sunni clerics across the United States, a defense official said.

The New York Times
August 29, 2004 Sunday
Late Edition – Final
SECTION: Section 1; Column 1; National Desk; Pg. 23
HEADLINE: Israel Denies ’100%’ Any Spying Against the U.S., Which It Calls a ‘Cherished Ally’
BYLINE: By STEVEN ERLANGER
DATELINE: JERUSALEM, Aug. 28

News that the F.B.I. has been investigating a Pentagon official on suspicion of passing secrets to Israel has caused a diplomatic scramble here, with officials rushing to deny spying on Washington and to assure the United States of its friendship.

Administration officials say the Pentagon official, who has been identified in some news reports but who could not be reached for comment early Saturday, works in the office of Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Officials who have been briefed about the inquiry say the official is suspected of passing a classified policy draft on Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group, which in turn is thought to have provided the information to Israeli intelligence.

Publicly, the Israeli government, through its spokesmen here and in Washington, have called the allegations wrong and outrageous, as has Aipac, the lobbying group.

”The United States is Israel’s most cherished friend and ally,” said David Siegel, the Israeli Embassy spokesman. ”We have a strong ongoing relationship at all levels, and in no way would Israel do anything to impair this relationship.”

Aipac called the allegations ”baseless and false.”

After the hugely embarrassing spying scandal of 1985, when Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst, was arrested and convicted of spying for Israel, the Israeli government made a firm decision to stop all clandestine spying in the United States, Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the foreign and defense committee in Parliament, said Saturday.

Mr. Steinitz is chairman of the most powerful committee in Parliament, with oversight of all Israeli military and intelligence agencies, and is chairman of the subcommittee on intelligence. He says he has access to as much secret information as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

”This was a firm decision,” Mr. Steinitz said, ”and I’m 100 percent confident — not 99 percent, but 100 percent — that Israel is not spying in the United States. We have no agents there and we are not gathering intelligence there, unlike probably every other country in the world, including some of America’s best friends in Europe.”

Mr. Sharon’s office emphasized the same point on Saturday, issuing a statement saying: ”Israel has no connection to this matter. The United States is Israel’s greatest ally. Israel is not engaged in intelligence activities in the United States and denies reports to the contrary.”

But Israeli officials also acknowledged that Iran is a vital security issue for them as well as for the United States, and that the views of Washington policy makers and analysts are of great interest to Israel.

Mr. Steinitz in particular considers Iran a nuclear superpower in the making, working on weapons that can hit Europe, as well as Israel, and he urged Washington and Europe to deal with Iran ”before it is too late.”

Still, reports of the F.B.I. investigation caused a furor here. And officials went to pains on Saturday to say that despite the importance of such intelligence, Israel only works openly in America, including diplomatic conversations and relationships with a full range of sources, from the White House and Congress to Aipac, which has its own sources. ”America is the great exception,” one official said. Mr. Steinitz said, ”People leak sometimes when they shouldn’t, that goes on everywhere, but that’s a different matter.”

While Israel has representatives of the Mossad, its intelligence agency, and military intelligence in Washington, they are attached to the embassy and their presence is known to American authorities, officials said.

Yossi Melman, an intelligence and terrorism expert with the Israeli daily Haaretz, said Saturday that since the case of Mr. Pollard, who remains in prison in the United States, ”I know there has been a decision not to run any operations on American soil or to recruit Americans to spy for Israel.”

Mossad, he said, is under instructions to have no direct contact even with officials from Aipac, ”and I know that Israel is very, very sensitive about having even open contacts with Jewish members of the administration, because of the ramifications of Pollard” and the concern that Israel would be accused of playing on any dual loyalty that an American Jew might feel.

This is a case of an American accused of passing information to an American organization, Mr. Melman said. ”While Aipac is pro-Israel, and maintains contacts with the Israeli Embassy and shares analysis, it does not deal with Israeli intelligence services,” he said. ”If Aipac passed on a secret document, that would be a sensitive matter for Israel. But if Aipac said, ‘It’s our understanding that the Americans in Doug Feith’s office are thinking this and that,’ that’s different,” he said.

But the lines are often hard to draw, especially with an issue as sensitive as the one involving Iran, which is considered by American and Israeli officials to be working on nuclear weaponry even though it has said its program is only to generate electricity — in a sense, presenting a publicly ambiguous stance, much as does Israel, which has developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent but refuses to discuss the matter. Iran is also interesting to Israel, although less so to the United States, for the financial and military support it provides Hezbollah, the militant anti-Israel group based in Lebanon and active in the West Bank.

For Mr. Steinitz, a hawk with Likud, Iran is a clear and present danger for the entire West. ”The Iran nuclear program is so ambitious that after producing a first bomb, they could produce 20 bombs a year,” he said. ”This isn’t North Korea or Iraq or even Pakistan. Iran will soon become a global power with intercontinental missiles that will threaten Europe and NATO, with disastrous political results for Israel, the moderate Arab world and the United States,” he said.

But the problem of Iran is global, he said. ”It’s up to the Americans and Europeans to solve Iran, not little Israel.”

The Washington Post
August 29, 2004 Sunday
Final Edition
SECTION: A Section; A06
HEADLINE: FBI Probe Targets Pentagon Official;
Analyst Allegedly Gave Data to Israel
BYLINE: Bradley Graham and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post Staff Writers

The FBI is investigating a mid-level Pentagon official who specializes in Iranian affairs for allegedly passing classified information to Israel, and arrests in the case could come as early as next week, officials at the Pentagon and other government agencies said Friday night.

The name of the person under investigation was not officially released, but two sources identified him as Larry Franklin. He was described as a desk officer in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia Bureau, one of six regional policy sections. Franklin worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency before moving to the Pentagon’s policy branch three years ago and is nearing retirement, the officials said. Franklin could not be located for comment Friday night.

One government official familiar with the investigation said it is not yet clear whether the case will rise to the level of espionage or end up involving lesser charges such as improper disclosure or mishandling of classified information.

The investigation has been underway for some months. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top Pentagon lawyers were informed of it some time ago, officials said. But many other senior Pentagon officials expressed surprise at the news when it was first reported Friday night on CBS.

Several Pentagon officials sought to play down Franklin’s role in policymaking, saying that he was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy.

“The Defense Department has been cooperating with the Department of Justice for an extended period of time,” the Pentagon said in a statement Friday night. “It is the DOD’s understanding that the investigation within DOD is very limited in its scope.”

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

That office is one of two Pentagon offices that Bush administration critics have claimed were set up by Defense Department hawks to bypass the CIA and other intelligence agencies, providing information that President Bush and others used to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

The other office was run by a Luti superior, Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, and was known as the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group. Feith reports to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who in turn reports to Rumsfeld.

Neither the House nor Senate intelligence committees, however, found support for allegations that the analysts in the offices collected their own intelligence, or that their information significantly shaped the case the administration made for going to war.

A law enforcement official said that the information allegedly passed by Franklin went to Israel through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying organization. The information was said to have been the draft of a presidential directive related to U.S. policies toward Iran.

In addition to Franklin, the FBI investigation is focusing on at least two employees at AIPAC, the law enforcement official said.

Friday night, AIPAC vigorously denied any wrongdoing and said it is fully cooperating with the investigation.

“Any allegation of criminal conduct by the organization or its employees is baseless and false,” spokesman Josh Block said in a written statement. “We would not condone or tolerate for a second any violation of U.S. law or interests.” He said he had been traveling and so had no additional information on the situation.

Another AIPAC official said: “Our folks are pretty outraged about this. We’ve had these kinds of accusations before, and none of them has ever proven to be true.”

David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said: “We categorically deny these allegations. They are completely false and outrageous.”

Israel is a close ally of the United States, but espionage investigations here involving its government are not unprecedented. In 1987, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan J. Pollard, admitted to selling state secrets to Israel and was sentenced to life in prison.

Franklin’s name surfaced in news reports last year that disclosed he and another Pentagon specialist on the Persian Gulf region had met secretly with Manucher Ghorbanifar, a discredited expatriate Iranian arms merchant who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal of the mid-1980s.

That meeting, according to Pentagon officials, took place in late 2001. It had been formally sanctioned by the U.S. government in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism. Franklin and the other Pentagon official, Harold Rhode, met with the Iranians over three days in Italy. Ghorbanifar attended these meetings. Rumsfeld has said that the information received at the meetings led nowhere.

Staff writer Dan Eggen and researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report

The Washington Post
August 29, 2004 Sunday
Final Edition
SECTION: A Section; A01
HEADLINE: Analyst Who Is Target of Probe Went to Israel
BYLINE: Thomas E. Ricks and Robin Wright, Washington Post Staff Writers

The FBI investigation into whether classified information was passed to the Israeli government is focused on a Pentagon analyst who has served as an Air Force reservist in Israel, and the probe has been broadened in recent days to include interviews at the State and Defense departments and with Middle Eastern affairs specialists outside government, officials and others familiar with the inquiry said yesterday.

At the center of the investigation, sources said, is Lawrence A. Franklin, a career analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who specializes in Iran and has served in the Air Force Reserve, rising to colonel. Early in the Bush administration, Franklin moved from the DIA to the Pentagon’s policy branch headed by Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, where he continued his work on Iranian affairs.

Officials and colleagues said yesterday that Franklin had traveled to Israel, including during duty in the Air Force Reserve, where he served as a specialist in foreign political-military affairs. He may have been based at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on those tours, said a former co-worker at the DIA, but was never permanently assigned there.

Messages left at Franklin’s Pentagon office were not returned yesterday, and nobody answered the door at his house in West Virginia. No one has been charged in the case.

FBI officials have been quietly investigating for months whether Franklin gave classified information — which officials said included a draft of a presidential directive on U.S. policies toward Iran — to two Israeli lobbyists here who are alleged to have passed it on to the Israeli government. Officials said it was not yet clear whether the probe would become an espionage case or perhaps would result in lesser charges such as improper release of classified information or mishandling of government documents.

On Friday, Pentagon officials said Franklin was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy. “The Defense Department has been cooperating with the Department of Justice for an extended period of time,” a Pentagon statement said. “It is the DOD’s understanding that the investigation within DOD is very limited in its scope.”

At the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington yesterday, people touched by the case said they were baffled by aspects of it.

Colleagues said they were stunned to hear Franklin was suspected of giving secret information to a foreign government. And foreign policy specialists said they were skeptical that the pro-Israel group under FBI scrutiny, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, would jeopardize its work with classified documents from a midlevel bureaucrat when it could find out almost anything it wanted to by calling top officials in the Bush administration.

“The whole thing makes no sense to me,” said Dennis Ross, special envoy on the Arab-Israeli peace process in the first Bush administration and the Clinton presidency. “The Israelis have access to all sorts of people. They have access in Congress and in the administration. They have people who talk about these things,” said Ross, now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office issued a statement yesterday saying Israel was not involved in the matter and conducts no espionage in the United States. AIPAC has strongly denied any wrongdoing and said it is “cooperating fully” with the probe.

The FBI investigation was touched off months ago when a series of e-mails was brought to investigators’ attention, said a U.S. official familiar with the case. The investigation moved into high gear in recent days, another official said. On Friday, Justice Department officials briefed some Pentagon officials about the state of the inquiry.

“I think they are at the end of their investigation and beginning to brief people in the chain of command, partly to make sure that the acts weren’t authorized,” one official said.

Pentagon co-workers expressed shock at the news. “It’s totally astonishing to all of us who knew him,” said a Defense Department co-worker who asked not to be identified because of the investigation. “He is a career guy, a mild-mannered professional. No one would think of him as evil or devious.”

Franklin works in the office of William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. For years a bureaucratic backwater, the office has been in the thick of the action since 2001 because it formulates Pentagon policy on Iraq. It played a central role as the U.S. military prepared for the spring 2003 invasion and since then as the Pentagon has overseen the occupation.

Luti’s office is part of the policy operation under Feith.

Feith has been a controversial figure in U.S.-Israeli affairs since the mid-1990s, when he was part of a study group of American conservatives, then out of government, who urged Israel’s then prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to abandon the Oslo peace accords and reject the basis for them — that Israel should give up land in exchange for peace.

More recently, Feith has been a target of criticism from Democrats who claim that two offices in his branch — the Office of Special Plans, headed by Luti, and the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group — sought to manipulate intelligence to improve the Bush administration’s case for war against Iraq. House and Senate intelligence committee investigators found no evidence for allegations that the Pentagon offices tried to bypass the CIA or had a major impact on the prewar debate. But in the Senate panel’s report on prewar intelligence, three Democratic senators — John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), Carl M. Levin (Mich.), and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) — specifically criticized Feith’s operation.

In Kearneysville, W.Va., about 80 miles from the Pentagon, neighbors of the Franklins interviewed yesterday said they did not know the family well. Though nobody answered the door, voices were heard in the house, which had a “God Bless Our Troops” sticker and an American flag in the window.

People who know Franklin from different phases of his life offered contrasting accounts of his political views.

A U.S. government official familiar with the investigation said Franklin was very outwardly supportive of Israel, for example. But a former co-worker at the DIA disputed that characterization, saying that he did not recall in years of working with him any strong political statements about Israel or anything else. Franklin, he said, was a solid, competent analyst specializing in Iranian political affairs, especially the views of top leaders and the course of opposition movements.

In February 2000, Franklin wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal’s European edition that was sharply critical of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, arguing that the leader was launching a “charm offensive” that was simply a “ruse” to make the Iranian government look better to Westerners while it continued to abuse human rights.

Details of Franklin’s Air Force service, and especially his time in Israel, could not be learned yesterday. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment.

In Israel yesterday, Sharon’s office issued a statement. “Israel does not engage in intelligence activities in the U.S. We deny all these reports,” the statement said, according to the Associated Press. That followed a strong statement Friday by the Israeli Embassy in Washington denying any wrongdoing.

One Israeli official familiar with the situation said yesterday that his government had checked “every organ here” to make sure that no part of government was involved. “We checked everything possible, and there’s absolutely nothing. It’s a non-event, from the Israeli point of view. Someone leaked this to [hurt] . . . the president, AIPAC and the Jews on the eve of the Republican convention,” he speculated.

He added that Israel would not have been involved in such activities, “because we have a trauma here in Israel. It’s called Pollard.”

That was a reference to the case in which a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan J. Pollard, admitted in 1987 to selling state secrets to Israel. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and Israeli officials have said since then they do not conduct espionage against the United States.

At AIPAC, spokesman Josh Block said the organization had no comment yesterday beyond its Friday statement that the organization and its employees denied any wrongdoing and were cooperating with the government. A former AIPAC employee also said he was baffled by the news of the FBI investigation. “I have a hard time figuring out what this is about,” he said. If the Israelis or their supporters want to know about deliberations in the Bush administration, he said, “all they have to do is take people to lunch.”

Others in Washington, however, maintained that Israel does present a problem for the United States in certain aspects of intelligence, such as sensitive defense technologies and Iran policy.

Israel sees Iran as the single biggest threat to its existence, and so closely monitors all possible moves in Washington’s Iranian policy — especially as the Bush administration presses Tehran to disclose more about the state of its nuclear program.

One former State Department officer recalled being told that U.S. government experts considered the countries whose spying most threatened the United States were Russia, South Korea and Israel. “I also know from my time in Jerusalem that official U.S. visitors to Israel were warned about the counterintelligence threat from Israel,” he said.

Taking a slightly different view, others speculated that the very closeness of the relationship between the United States and Israeli governments — and especially the tight connections between the Israelis and Feith’s policy office — may have led officials to become sloppy about rules barring release of sensitive information.

Staff writers John Ward Anderson in Jerusalem, Dan Eggen, Amit R. Paley, Steven Ginsberg and Jerry Markon in Washington and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

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