DOD Analyst Provided Shihab-3 Data To Israel

Middle East Newsline - October 7, 2005

WASHINGTON [MENL] -- A senior U.S. Defense Department analyst has pleaded guilty to supplying classified data to Israel.

Lawrence Franklin, 58, pleaded guilty to three charges in connection with retaining and relaying classified defense information to an Israeli embassy diplomat and two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Franklin was identified as a specialist on Iran and Iraq and worked for Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, who resigned in mid-2005.

Documents submitted in the Franklin case suggested that the data relayed to Israel included information on Iraq and weapons tests in Iran. The documents do not name Iran, but government sources said the reference was to Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile tests by Teheran.

"Between December 2003 and June 2004, at an unknown location, Franklin disclosed to the FO [foreign officer] classified United States government information relating to a weapons test conducted by a Middle Eastern country," a prosecution document submitted to the federal district court in eastern Virginia said.

In 2004, Iran conducted two launches of an enhanced Shihab-3 missile. At the time, both Israeli and U.S. officials said the launches comprised part of an effort to increase the range and accuracy of the Shihab-3.

Two AIPAC employees have also been charged with illegally holding classified material. The indictment said the Israeli diplomat, identified as political counselor Naor Gilon, and the AIPAC staffers received the material in 2003 and 2004.

At a hearing on Oct. 5, Franklin told a federal district court in Virginia that he had hoped that AIPAC would use his information to help influence Bush administration policy. Franklin said he had been in contact with AIPAC staffers Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman 1999 through 2004. Both Rosen and Weissman were dismissed by AIPAC in April 2005.

Franklin was ordered to attend a sentencing hearing on Jan. 20, 2006. Rosen and Weissman pleaded not guilty and their trial was scheduled to begin on Jan. 3.

The indictment charged that in 1999 Rosen and Weissman launched an effort to use their contacts in the U.S. government to gather sensitive information. The two men were said to have intended to distribute the information to foreign government officials and journalists.

The Israel embassy said the diplomat who met Franklin did not know that the Pentagon analyst was breaking the law. The embassy said Gilon provided Franklin with more information than received by the diplomat. In the Oct. 5 hearing, Franklin made a similar assertion.

In wake of Franklin's arrest, Gilon was recalled to Israel, where the FBI has sought to interrogate him. Franklin said he met Gilon eight or nine times.

Israeli diplomats said the embassy did not engage in espionage. They said embassy counselors routinely meet State Department and Pentagon officials and exchange information.

The diplomats expressed concern that the Franklin case would have a chilling effect on efforts to maintain a strategic relationship between Israel and the United States. By law, Franklin could receive up to 10 years in prison.

"If we can't meet government people informally without the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over them, then many of our channels of information will be cut off," an Israeli diplomatic source said.

  • See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page