For big laffs, check out Marty Peretz
on the dropping of the AIPAC case:
The espionage that they were supposed to have committed turns out not to be espionage but rather casual talk on insignificant topics with people friendly to the United States.
The AIPAC case is "insignificant." Uh huh. Then why did former DOD employee Larry Franklin receive a twelve year sentence? Why was the "insignificant" information classified Top Secret? Why was the FBI tapping Saban -- and others? Do courts allow legal wiretaps on unimportant matters? Why did the FBI review the late Jack Anderson's
long history of AIPAC contacts? Why has the FBI been probing AIPAC since before 9/11
The FBI began its "insignificant" wide-ranging, years-long investigation of AIPAC after Franklin's meetings with Naor Gilon, an Israeli expert on Iran's nuclear capability, also the handler for AIPAC's Steven Rosen and Keith Weissmann. In brief
The spy nest met over a period of two years, always after taking elaborate security precautions: the indictment details one meeting during which the spies switched locations three times. These guys knew what they were doing was treasonous, and rightly feared they were being followed.
Mainstream media accounts rarely discuss the precise nature of the information that Franklin passed to AIPAC's Rosen and Weissmann. The absence of specifics has allowed apologists to claim -- falsely -- that the case comes down to a few beer-swilling pals chatting about unimportant scuttlebutt. But the indictment of Larry Franklin is online
, if you care to read it. It offers many clues as to the true gravity of the matter. We learn from it that Rosen and Weissman stand accused of a long history of espionage, and that Franklin was not their only "inside" contact.
I'll translate the timeline from legalese to plain English. Yes, I know that this will be ancient hat to some of you, but a refresher never hurts:
April 13, 1999: Rosen "picked up an extremely sensitive piece of intelligence" relating to terrorists in Central Asia. (That sounds like Al Qaeda to me.)
June 11, 1999: Weissman told an Israeli official about a secret FBI report on the Khobar Towers bombing. (The indictment coyly refers to unnamed "Foreign Officials." But everyone knows that these AIPAC lads were talking to Israelis -- specifically, to Naor Gilon and Uzi Arad, now an aide to Netanyahu.)
December 12, 2000: Rosen and Weissman got information from an unnamed government official about "classified United States strategy options against a Middle Eastern country." The information was passed to the media.
January 18-23, 2002: Rosen obtained classified information from another government official and passed it on to an Israeli official.
March 12-14, 2002: Rosen obtained classified information about Al Qaeda from one of his inside contacts and disclosed it to an Israeli official.
August 5, 2002: Rosen asked a DOD contact to name an important Pentagon Iran expert who might be willing to play ball. Enter Larry Franklin. Franklin was targeted
; he did not simply meet socially with a couple of guys who happened to work for AIPAC. After establishing contact, Rosen told Franklin that they wanted information on seven or eight issues -- not just Iran.
February 12, 2003: Franklin gave the AIPAC boys the gist of a classified internal document "concerning a Middle Eastern country." (Iran.) This was later passed on the Israelis. Rosen and Weissman had an overwhelming interest in this report, for reasons we will soon discuss.
February 14, 2003: Rosen encouraged Franklin to seek a position on the NSC. Rosen said that he would do what he could to make sure that Franklin got the sensitive position. In other words, a promise of career advancement helped to hook Larry Franklin.
March 10, 2003: The three met at Union Station, then switched restaurants three times before ending up at an empty eatery. The indictment does not state what the trio discussed during these strange maneuvers. Sports, probably.
March 13, 2003: Rosen disclosed what he knew about the Iran document to an official at a D.C. "think tank." That would be the Saban Center
-- yes, run by that
Saban. (Of whom, more below.)
March 17, 2003: Franklin faxed a classified document from his Pentagon office to Rosen. This was an appendix to the document mentioned on February 12.
March 18, 2003: Rosen told a member of the media about the classified document, saying "I'm not supposed to know this." He stressed the importance of the story. The reporter apparently was Glenn Kessler
of the Washington Post.
March 30, 2003: Rosen told another reporter about the document's contents.
June 24, 2004: On the phone, Weissman asked Franklin to obtain a certain document, not classified. Franklin said that he would get it from a CIA buddy. The document is, in all likelihood, the one by CIA analyst Flynt Leverett referenced here
. Leverett argued for detente (if that is the right word) with Iran.
June 26, 2003: The three met at a restaurant, where Franklin passed on "highly classified" data about potential attacks in Iraq.
June 30, 2003: Weissman and Franklin went to a baseball game. A few days earlier, Weissman told Rosen about the proposed sports outing. Rosen answered: "Smart guy. That's the thing to do." I think we get the picture.
October 24, 2003: Franklin spoke directly on the telephone to an Israeli official about the internal document on Iran that had so piqued Israeli interest.
May 21, 2004: Franklin gave reporters Top Secret information about two Middle Eastern officials. This phrase almost certainly refers to Ahmed Chalabi and Manucher Ghorbinifar
June 30, 2004: Larry Franklin was caught with a whole bunch of classified documents in his home. He began to cooperate with the feds.
July 9, 2004: Franklin fed Weissman classified defense info.
July 21, 2004: Franklin fed Weissman information about Iran's covert actions in Iraq. Franklin specified that the data was highly classified "Agency stuff." This classified material was later passed on to the Israelis and to a media contact.
In August, the FBI contacted Rosen and Weissman directly -- which, obviously, the feds would not have done if they did not feel that they had a nice, airtight espionage case.By the way, Rosen and Weissman also lied to federal investigators during questioning. Isn't that why Martha Stewart went to the slammer?
The point should be clear: This was a spy ring. You'll read in many blogs that the Iran document was inconsequential. If so, then why did the Israelis go to such lengths to learn all about it?
Nevertheless, Obama is poised to drop the case.
Okay, so what's really
going on here? What specific pieces of data caused these three men to run such risks? First, let's consult Wikipedia:
According to The New York Times, Lawrence Franklin was one of two U.S. officials that held meetings with Iranian dissidents, including Paris-based arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, a key figure in the Iran-Contra affair. These Pentagon-approved meetings were brokered by neoconservative Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, who had also played a part in Iran-Contra, and is said to have taken place in Paris in June 2003. The Jerusalem Post reported that the purpose of the meetings was to "undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government", specifically, an exchange of high-ranking al-Qaeda members in Iranian custody in return for a stop to U.S. support of the anti-Iranian Mujahideen al-Khalq fighters in Iraq... The Post article dated the beginning of the FBI investigation to this secret meeting, which the public first learned about in August 2003.History Commons
(drawing from a Vanity Fair
article) adds the following about Franklin's meetings with Ghorbanifar and our old friend, Michael Ledeen:
While no details of the discussions that took place at this meeting are available, it is likely that, like the other two, the main focus of the meeting is the manipulation of “evidence” showing Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in order to provide “proof” that the US invasion of Iraq was justified.
Bear with me. This next bit gets tricky.
As you will recall, the AIPAC lads showed a particular interest in Flynt Leverett's let's-make-peace-with-Iran document, which was not classified. That document became the basis of an article Leverett wrote for the New York Times. After its publication, the Bush Administration said that Leverett had used classified data, even though he hadn't. In fact, the government redacted
parts of the op-ed piece!
You weren't supposed to see those passages, but Keith Weissman is privileged.
Leverett did a stint on Condaleeza Rice's staff, during which time he saw a startling document about Iran, as discussed in this Washington Post article
"I have read about this so-called proposal from Iran," Rice told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, referring to reports in The Washington Post and other publications last year. "We had people who said, 'The Iranians want to talk to you,' lots of people who said, 'The Iranians want to talk to you.' But I think I would have noticed if the Iranians had said, 'We're ready to recognize Israel.' .
Rice denied seeing the document, but Leverett says that he
saw it, and so did others.
The Iranian document, conveyed to Washington via the Swiss Embassy, listed a series of Iranian aims for potential talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests," according to a copy that has circulated in Washington and was verified by Iranian and U.S. officials.
In the document, Iran offered to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, including possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of road maps on disarmament, countering terrorism and economic cooperation.
Ah. The road not taken...
Keep in mind that Larry Franklin hated
the government of Iran, as does Naor Gilon, the guy at the Israeli embassy who was received so much secret data. One can only guess how they reacted to all of this peace talk.
Iran held out the olive branch. Iran was willing to meet the U.S. more than halfway. And -- despite Rice's protestations to Congress -- Bush did
Alas, the neocons want -- in the colorful words of a previous post -- to "bomb the mother loving crap out of Iran."
Let's repeat what the Jerusalem Post had to say: The purpose of the Ghorbanifar meetings was to "undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government." That deal -- Al Qaeda prisoners in exchange for withdrawal of U.S. support for MEK
(Mujahideen al-Khalq) terrorists -- would have been an excellent first step toward the goals outlined by Flynt Leverett. (The MEK are crazy fuckers with dreams of conquering Tehran.)
Bush officials did indeed discreet meetings
with Iranian contacts. The Americans attacked MEK camps in northern Iraq.
Michael Ledeen did not want that
In fact, many say that the Pentagon, administered by Ledeen’s allies, has courted a weird, cultish anti-regime Iranian guerilla group based in eastern Iraq called the Mujahideen al-Khalq.
And so we now have a good idea as to the contents of that classified Presidential document on Iran -- a document which Israel considered all-important, which Rosen and Weissman risked their freedom to obtain, which apologists like Peretz now want us to consider unimportant:Peace or war.
As simple as that. Bush was considering peace -- true peace -- with Iran. The Israelis were terrified of the very idea. They wanted war.
War may yet come. If and when it does, the history lesson I have tried to give here will not seem so very dry. And few will consider what Rosen and Weissman did "insignificant."By the way:
The U.S. government indictment alleged that the director of research at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Kenneth Pollack, provided information to former AIPAC employees Steve J. Rosen and Keith Weissman during the AIPAC espionage scandal.
As we've already seen, the info flow went the other way. The Saban Center is, of course, the baby of Haim Saban, of Power Ranger fame. He's the Israeli agent who tried to get Jane Harman to pressure the DOJ to drop the case against Rosen and Weissman. This explains the FBI's interest in Saban.
Marty Peretz says that the "real scandal" is: Who approved the Harman wiretap?
But we know that Harman was not the target -- Haim Saban was. So Peretz
is really asking: Who dared to wiretap Saban?
The indictment charges three men with espionage. Rosen and Weissman will probably walk, while Larry Franklin does hard time. African Americans complain about cops who view "Driving While Black" as a crime. Perhaps Franklin was nabbed for Spying While Goy.