Editorial: A Spy for Israel?

A very curious claim of espionage.

The Wall Street Journal - September 1, 2004

Either espionage isn't what it used to be, or someone is spinning secrets the way they shouldn't. At least that's how it looks nearly a week after word leaked about a purported spy for Israel at the Pentagon.

It's hard to see behind the veil of classification, but on current evidence this is not another Jonathan Pollard, the bona fide spy still in jail for spilling U.S. secrets to Israel in the 1980s. Nor is it part of a Zionist conspiracy run by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, whose photograph seems to accompany every news report.

As of this writing, no charges have been brought against Lawrence Franklin, a mid-level Pentagon analyst suspected of passing to Israel classified documents on Iran via AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Israel denies it, AIPAC denies it, and Mr. Franklin is said to be cooperating with the FBI.

Our sources tell us that Mr. Franklin may have disclosed something he shouldn't have to the press some time ago. This gave the FBI the opening to force his cooperation and search his home, where they found some documents that did not belong there. If this is so, Mr. Franklin wouldn't be the first government official to break the law by taking classified material home. Former CIA director John Deutch transferred thousands of pages of secret documents to his home computer, for which he was pardoned by Bill Clinton in his last hours in office.

The latest leaks say Mr. Franklin may be charged with mishandling classified documents, or not even charged at all. In either case, it's a far cry from CBS News's original report last Friday that "the FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to--in FBI terminology--'roll up' someone agents believe has been spying not for an enemy, but for Israel from within the office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon." In its initial report, CBS went on to say: "With ties to top Pentagon officials [Deputy Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the analyst was assigned to a unit within the Defense Department tasked with helping develop the Pentagon's Iraq policy." [RANDO]You don't need a secret decoder ring to know that this sentence is meant as a bit of innuendo against the Pentagon's "neoconservatives," who in this case happen to be Jewish (though Mr. Franklin is not).

As it happens, the FBI has had Mr. Franklin under surveillance for more than a year and has turned up nothing on anyone else at the Pentagon. His superiors only learned about the investigation this past weekend. In any event, there are six layers of Pentagon bureaucracy between Mr. Franklin, a desk officer on Iran, and Mr. Feith, who supervises a staff of 1,500. Mr. Wolfowitz is even farther removed.

The information Mr. Franklin is suspected of leaking has to do with the debate on Iran within the Bush Administration, specifically with the draft of a Presidential policy directive. It's hard to believe that the Israelis would need secret sources to illuminate this issue, given the close ties between the two countries. The Iran question has also been widely aired in the press, including in an op-ed that Mr. Franklin wrote for The Wall Street Journal Europe in 2000.

Finally, let us say a word about Mr. Franklin personally. He is a career Defense intelligence analyst -- a former Soviet analyst who reinvented himself after the Cold War as a Farsi-speaking Mideast expert and moved to the Defense Department early in the Bush Administration. He is also a colonel in the Air Force Reserve. Those who have worked with him say he is a patriot. If the feds believe he committed a crime, he deserves to be charged in a court of law and given a chance to defend himself.

  • See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page