Larry Franklin’s October Surprise

by , October 09, 2004

Amid the back-and-forth between the Bushies and the Kerry camp, one campaign season fusillade has gone largely unnoticed. Fundie nut-job Pat Robertson exposed the real heart and soul of his movement of moonbats the other day at a news conference in Jerusalem, where he threatened to withdraw his support from the GOP:

"’The President has backed away from [the road map], but if he were to touch Jerusalem, he’d lose all Evangelical support. Evangelicals would form a third party’ because, though people ‘don’t know about’ Gaza, Jerusalem is an entirely different matter."

It is an extraordinary sight: not since the leaders of the American Communist Party traveled to Moscow to pledge allegiance to the Comintern in the earlier half of the last century has such an open display of fealty to a foreign power been recorded. Together with 5,000 of his followers, the Rev. Robertson – whose 1988 presidential campaign galvanized "born again" Christians into a potent force within the GOP – toured the Holy Land, much as John Reed and his comrades toured Soviet Russia, painting a portrait of the regime in roseate pastels and calling on their countrymen to support the "workers’ fatherland." And the similarities do not end there. Reed, like Robertson, was inspired by a theology, a faith in the inexorable forces of History. The fundies call this Prophecy.

Commies and fundies have a lot more in common than either are capable of imagining, but one common thread stands out in particular. The dispensationalist dogma that gives Israel a key role in bringing about the Second Coming is roughly analogous to Russia’s stature in the minds of the post-1917 Left as the vanguard and harbinger of world revolution. The American adherents of both creeds basically transferred their primary loyalties to a foreign country. Just as the Communists functioned as Soviet Russia’s fifth column in America, so Robertson’s flock serves in a similar capacity on behalf of the Israeli government. And they do so openly, and proudly.

From the "Red Decade" of the 1930s up until the beginning of the cold war, the left was hardly ever called on their passionate attachment to a foreign regime, except by scattered groups of isolated anti-Communists. During World War II, at the height of the Roosevelt-Stalin alliance, all criticism of the Soviet Union was reviled as "reactionary" and even treasonous. It wasn’t until the U.S. began to square off against their former allies that the crackdown began and the government moved to expose and break up the extensive espionage apparatus the Kremlin had been allowed to build up in this country. As we later learned, Russia’s cheering section in America was the linchpin of this spy network.

In tracking the progress of Soviet espionage activities in the U.S., investigators – and not only Senator Joseph McCarthy – found that Soviet "front" organizations, such as the Institute for Pacific Relations (IPR), were key links in the Kremlin’s spy apparatus, of which top U.S. government officials, such as Laughlin Currie, Owen Lattimore, and Alger Hiss were a part. Hiding behind the public face of numerous respectable front groups, a covert coven of pro-Soviet spies and fellow travelers inside the U.S. government stole our secrets and betrayed their country, not for money, but for ideology.

Every fifth column movement has an underground component, charged with passing information to its foreign masters, as well as aboveground institutions: thinktanks, media outlets, and most of all lobbying groups that openly protect the interests of the Mother Country. For reasons of security, the two wings keep their distance from each other, but there is always a certain amount of clandestine interaction – a vulnerability that exposes them to constant danger.

This same vulnerability seems to have tripped up Israel’s fifth column, of which Robertson and his cohorts are the loudest (and largest) public adjunct. That the usually pro-Bush Robertson is fired up enough to threaten the President of the United States with dire political retribution if he dares violate the preacher’s obscure theological fixation with Jerusalem is surely some kind of sign, if not from God, then from a more earthly power. Could the fierce tone of Robertson’s fatwa have something to do with the recent ratcheting up of the case against Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst accused of passing classified documents to Israel?

Franklin was previously reported as having been "turned" by the FBI, giving them information in exchange for the promise of leniency when it comes time to file charges, but that now appears to have changed. According to the Los Angeles Times, Franklin has rejected a proposed deal in which he would plead guilty to some of the charges, dismissed his court-appointed lawyer, and is now represented by Plato Cacheris, who defended convicted spies Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames.

When Cacheris took up the case of Ana Belen Montes, Castro’s top spy in the United States, neoconservative writer Ronald Radosh argued that he "seems to be the chosen counsel for most of the recent American spies for foreign powers." But this misses the real point to be made about the Washington super-lawyer: he specializes, not in espionage cases, but in high profile scandals, the kind that make mile-high headlines. From Watergate (he represented Attorney General John Mitchell) to Iran-Contra (he got Fawn Hall immunity in exchange for her testimony) to Lewinsky-gate (he was one of Monica’s attorneys), one thing is clear: the spotlight is his natural habitat – yet another indication that the Franklin affair, which seems to have dropped into the black hole of journalistic memory, is going to resurface big time.

The Franklin case is a byproduct of a two-year investigation: law enforcement was routinely listening in on a conversation between two high-ranking AIPAC employees and Israeli officials when they stumbled on Franklin’s treason. The story was deliberately leaked, not by the FBI, but by parties who were interested in prematurely forcing the whole investigation out into the open – giving the Israelis involved time to flee the country, and others an opportunity to destroy evidence and take cover. Franklin’s stonewalling, and apparent decision to fight – “Any charge of espionage will be met with fierce resistance,” says Cacheris – is a challenge to the FBI to either put up or shut up.

“It looks like there is going to be a battle,” said a source cited by the Times. It can’t be long now before charges are filed, and the story of how Israel infiltrated the highest echelons of the Pentagon’s policy shop – where Franklin works as an Iran specialist – comes out in lurid detail.

With a month to go until the election, the exposure of AIPAC as the vital conduit through which Israeli moles in the government passed sensitive information to Israel is so politically explosive that it’s no wonder the White House handed the case to a compliant political appointee and told investigators to "slow down," according to the Financial Times. But it looks like Franklin has single-handedly nixed that plan.

This is one "October surprise" that would benefit neither Bush nor Kerry – the former because of the laxness it reveals in the inner councils of his own administration, and the latter on account of his utter cowardice and unwillingness to even address the issue.

As we begin to ask questions about who lied us into war, and why; as we trace the fabrications, the forgeries, the phony "intelligence" back to the original source, in the context of the hardest-fought presidential election in recent memory – and a war that we appear to be losing – the implications of the Franklin-AIPAC espionage case are so hot as to be nearly radioactive. Neither candidate is willing to touch it. But Franklin, in an effort to save his own skin, may have forced the issue onto the table.

Read more by Justin Raimondo