Shaking Up Israel’s Spy Nest

by , April 23, 2005

In a case of incredibly bad timing, neoconservative columnist and author Joel Mowbray recently came out with a piece claiming that “stories on Larry Franklin, dual loyalties, and espionage for Israel look more far-fetched with each passing day.” According to Mowbray, the spy scandal that has enveloped AIPAC since last fall is all part of a conspiracy by the Washington Post, which “deluged” readers with tall tales of Israeli spies under the floorboards of the Pentagon. Mowbray strongly implies the Post‘s prominent coverage of the events surrounding the FBI’s two raids on AIPAC’s Washington office was all pretty much due to an ill-concealed anti-Semitism: after all,

“The Post didn’t stop there. Over seven days, the paper’s coverage even broadened to report that investigators had ‘specifically asked about’ five named individuals in, or close to, the administration. All were Jews, and the Post reported, all ‘have strong ties to Israel.'”

Mowbray doesn’t mention that Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, the central figure in all this, is not Jewish. That would ruin the consistency of his narrative, which focuses on the ethnic victimology angle: clearly we are supposed to think that this is not an investigation into spying operations, in which a foreign power is given ready access to top secret documents, but a reenactment of Kristallnacht. Mowbray is an expert when it comes to this kind of whining: remember how he smeared General Anthony Zinni?

In any case, Mowbray isn’t impressed by the Post‘s reporting, nor by the FBI’s apparently intense interest in one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups – although one wonders what his attitude might be if we were talking about a Muslim or Arab-American organization. Instead, his attitude is blithely dismissive:

“In an online chat at the Washington Post‘s Web site recently, the paper’s intelligence reporter Dana Priest said that there had been ‘nothing new’ to report in the investigation of low-level Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin – whose case dominated the Post‘s front page over the course of a full week last fall – ‘or we would have written something.’ Well, something ‘new’ has happened: the passage of time has largely debunked the Post‘s breathless coverage.”

Not so fast, my friend. One of the dangers of writing with such certitude is that subsequent events could all too easily prove otherwise. With the latest news about the Franklin affair – and, yes, it’s from the Washington Post – it looks like Mowbray’s would-be debunking has been debunked:

“Two senior employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of Washington’s most influential lobbying organizations, have left their jobs amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information to the government of Israel, a source close to the organization said yesterday.

“The source characterized the departures as firings.”

Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman aren’t mailroom clerks: Rosen, a longtime AIPAC official, is the group’s director for foreign policy issues; Weissman is his deputy and a specialist on Iran. The two are accused of procuring the contents of a secret presidential directive on Iran at a luncheon meeting with Franklin. Lawyers for the duo denied any wrongdoing, but the big news here is that AIPAC is clearly trying to distance itself from two of its top officials:

“‘The statement made by Rosen and Weissman represents solely their view of the facts,’ said AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton. ‘The action that AIPAC has taken was done in consultation with counsel after careful consideration of recently learned information and the conduct AIPAC expects of its employees.'”

Translation: They’re guilty as sin and we’re throwing them overboard.

This is quite a reversal for AIPAC, which once doggedly defended all of its employees caught up in the FBI’s spy dragnet. Last summer, when CBS News first revealed that Franklin had been caught red-handed trying to pass off classified information to Israeli officials in the company of AIPAC employees, AIPAC spokesman Josh Block couldn’t have been clearer:

“Any allegation of criminal conduct by the organization or its employees is baseless and false. We would not condone or tolerate for a second any violation of U.S. law or interests.”

That was then, but this is now: the FBI clearly has the goods, not only on Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman, but on AIPAC as well. They don’t just start launching raids on one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington for the fun of it: this investigation has been going on for at least two years, and something has been sustaining it. Mowbray and Israel’s amen corner insist it’s anti-Semitism, but is AIPAC, too, part of the Vast Anti-Semitic Conspiracy? The once-powerful lobby is now running away as fast as possible from these two because they’re the victims of a pogrom?

A nest of spies in the Pentagon, determined to bend policy – and the rules governing the dissemination of top secret materials – to Israel’s benefit. That’s what the FBI investigation has uncovered, and it’s no accident that the core of this espionage cell is located in the policy department of the Pentagon, formerly overseen by Douglas J. Feith, who resigned earlier this year. Why did he resign so suddenly? Perhaps we are about to find out.

Franklin worked in the bureau for Near East and South Asian Affairs, under William J. Luti, until he was reassigned in the wake of the scandal: it was Luti who presided over the infamous Office of Special Plans, which was responsible for “stove-piping” patently false “intelligence” on Iraq prior to the invasion. According to Julian Borger of the Guardian, there was an identical unit based in Israel that was funneling phony intelligence to key decision-makers: Pentagon analyst Karen Kwiatkowski, now retired, also witnessed a strong Israeli connection, with IDF officers exempted from having to sign in on visits to agency facilities. What is under investigation by the FBI is what Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest, writing in Mother Jones, dubbed “the shadow agency within an agency” – Israel’s fifth column in the Defense Department.

Mowbray’s impatience with the speed of the investigation is finally about to assuaged, according to the Post. Two law enforcement officials are cited as sources for the news that “things are moving quickly,” as one of them says. Federal prosecutors, we are told, are weighing criminal charges, presumably against Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman, at the very least.

My advice to Joel Mowbray is to chill out, dude. The wheels of justice may turn slowly, even imperceptibly – especially when so many people are trying to “debunk” a case in which they don’t have access to all the facts – but this is still America, at least to some extent, where treason is a crime – even if it’s committed by partisans of Israel.

Read more by Justin Raimondo