Former Pentagon Expert Jailed for Leaks

MSN - January 20, 2006

A former Pentagon Middle East expert was on Friday sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for passing classified information to pro-Israel lobbyists and an Israeli diplomat.

Lawrence Franklin, an Iran expert who resigned from the Pentagon in June 2004, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months by a Virginia court, and fined $10,000. Mr Franklin, who pleaded guilty in October, is co-operating with federal investigators.

"The defendant violated his pledge to protect classified information," said Paul McNulty, the US attorney for Eastern Virginia. "He compromised national security and the system that protects it."

Mr Franklin admitted providing classified information to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), an influential pro-Israel lobby group in Washington. He also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing classified documents at his Virginia home.

Prosecutors could still request a lighter sentence for Mr Franklin depending on his co-operation with the investigation. He is expected to testify against Mr Rosen, former foreign policy director at Aipac, and Mr Weissman, a former Middle East analyst with the organisation, when they go to trial in April. The two, who have pleaded not guilty to all charges, are accused of illegally receiving information they knew to be classified.

Aipac, which fired Mr Rosen and Mr Weissman last year, has denied any involvement in espionage. Some Washington analysts suspect the FBI has been obsessed with finding Israeli spies in the US government since the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel.

The sentencing of Mr Franklin comes as Washington becomes increasingly vigilant about the transfer of classified information to unauthorised people. Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, was last year charged with obstructing the investigation of the naming of Valerie Plame, a former CIA covert agent.

Patrick Fitzgerald, a special prosecutor, is investigating whether Bush administration officials deliberately leaked her identity to reporters as part of a campaign to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, who was accusing the White House of twisting intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

The Pentagon did not say whether it had changed its security policies in the wake of the Franklin affair. "The Department [of Defence] continually assesses its operations and procedures and adjusts as appropriate," said Bryan Whitman, deputy Pentagon spokesman. "With respect to specific aspects of security programmes, I won't get into any specifics."

  • See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page