Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Israeli "spy" scandal: Don't miss the basic point

The current Israeli "spy" scandal involving Pentagon Iran expert Larry Franklin has an interesting parallel to the Susan Lindauer case.

Remember Susan? She was the starry-eyed do-gooder who hoped to stave off war by doing her naive best to get the Iraqis to agree to UN inspections. Because she contacted representatives of that government on her own initiative -- and then went on to contact White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (of all people!) -- she was charged with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power. (The neanderthal press morphed this charge into one of "spying," although she was never accused of that.)

Now let's flash-forward to THIS scenario:

Larry Franklin, the Pentagon's top Iran guy, arranges to meet representatives of AIPAC in a coffe shop. (AIPAC is the pro-Israel lobbying group.) According to most published accounts, he hands over classified documents. Other reports have it that he simply relayed secret information orally. Opinion varies as to just what it was he "passed over" to his dinner companions, but everyone agrees it was classified material.

His AIPAC contacts promptly relay all that they have learned to the Israeli government.

How do we know that this is what happened? Because the FBI was keeping tabs, covertly, on these AIPAC folks. Wiretaps, eavesdropping, that sort of thing.

Here's the most important point: AIPAC is not...not...NOT a registered agent of the Israeli government.

If anyone on Uncle Sam's payroll gives -- or attempts to give -- classified data to any AIPAC representative, that representative is supposed to contact the FBI, or some other appropriate U.S. authority. AIPAC may NOT legally pass said information along to anyone in Israel. Doing so is against the law.

In what universe is it permitted for Susan Lindauer to be charged with violating the "registered agent" provisions of U.S. code, while AIPAC officials can do the same thing without any problems?

And I won't even go into Laura Rozen's most startling allegation -- that Franklin passed along the documents not so much to help Israel but because he wanted to change U.S. policy toward Iran. In other words, he felt the Israelis would have more "pull" with Bush than would the Pentagon's top Iran expert! (Rozen makes her very interesting argument at www.warandpiece.com.)

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