Why Did Feith Resign?

by , May 31, 2005

The headline of this New York Sun article by Eli Lake on the progress of the case [.pdf] against Lawrence A. Franklin, a Pentagon analyst accused of handing over sensitive information to Israel, has got to take the cake for sheer gall: “Pentagon Analyst In Israel Spy Case Is Called a ‘Patriot’”!

You can’t make this stuff up.

Franklin was recently arrested and charged with revealing top secret information to two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who then informed Israeli officials. It turns out that the person calling Franklin a “patriot” is none other than his lawyer, the famed Plato Cacheris, whose clients have included Russian spy Robert Hanssen, Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes, and Monica Lewinsky, but even so: Come on!

Yeah, he’s a “patriot” all right – but on behalf of which country? Surely not the United States of America.

As the Franklin spy scandal metastasizes from what his defenders were earlier calling a “kerfuffle” into a major deal, the news of his arrest bodes ill for Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. In spite of a lot of palaver about how AIPAC is weathering the storm, the lobby’s legendary power – once touted as among the top five most powerful lobbies in Washington – is permanently crippled. Until recently, AIPAC stoutly denied that any of their employees had engaged in illegal activities: it was only when the apparent scope of the charges against Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s longtime policy director, and foreign policy specialist [.pdf] Keith Weissman was made known to AIPAC’s legal counsel that they stopped denying the obvious and threw Rosen and Weissman overboard. They still insist that AIPAC itself is not under investigation, a delusion that may evaporate as quickly as their protestations on behalf of their two former employees.

Even more damaging, however, is the revelation that Franklin was maintaining a storehouse of top secret information in his West Virginia home, the basis for a second charge for which he was arraigned on May 27. We didn’t hear much about that arraignment for unlawful possession of 83 classified documents spanning three decades – 38 of which were classified “top secret” – but a few local news outlets carried the story:

“The criminal complaint was based in part on the following six documents:

  • Terrorist Threat Integration Center, terrorism situation report – top secret/sensitive compartmented information (SCI), dated June 8, 2004.

  • Central Intelligence Agency document concerning Al-Qaida – top secret/SCI, dated June 9, 2004.

  • CIA document concerning Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida – secret/SCI, dated Oct. 7, 2003.

  • CIA document concerning Al-Qaida – secret, dated May 12, 2004.

  • CIA memorandum on Iraq – secret, dated June 4, 2004.

  • CIA defense executive intelligence view concerning terrorists – secret, dated June 10, 2004.”

    In disdaining the severity of the charges against Franklin, neocon ideologue David Frum described the information passed on to Israel via AIPAC as something “which anyone, even the Israelis, can purchase a copy of for 35 cents” – the price for a single copy of the Washington Post, which supposedly had revealed the contents of a policy paper on Iran. It now turns out that the policy paper was the least of it. One wonders if Frum is willing to reconsider his judgement. Somehow, I tend to doubt it.

    Similarly, Michael Ledeen, writing in the same formerly conservative publication – where else but National Review? – screeched “McCarthyism!” (an odd charge to issue from the pages of a magazine whose founding editor authored a book defending Tailgunner Joe as heroic, albeit misunderstood). Ledeen challenged the investigators:

    “Put up or shut up.”

    Now that they have put up, it is Ledeen and his cohorts who have apparently shut up. The usually loquacious defenders of Israel, especially in the right-wing precincts of the “blogosphere,” are inexplicably silent, too. Or perhaps their having been suddenly struck dumb is all too explicable: after all, what is there to say about Franklin’s treasure trove of American secrets except that it could not be more incriminating? However, the question of who and what is being incriminated here goes way beyond Franklin.

    As Matt Yglesias points out, Franklin, even with his intelligence background, would not have had access to highly sensitive compartmented information: the material dealing with al-Qaeda would certainly seem to fit into this category.

    We have to ask: On whose behalf was Franklin storing a “terrorism situation report” labeled “SCI” – the second highest category of classified information, several degrees above “classified,” “secret,” and “top secret” – and, even more intriguingly, where did he get it?

    The resignation of Defense Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, Franklin’s boss, as investigators close in on the Israeli spy nest embedded in his department now has to be seen in a new light. As Professor Juan Cole pointed out back in January, when Feith’s departure was announced:

    “Feith has been questioned by the FBI in relation to the passing by one of his employees of confidential Pentagon documents to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which in turn passed them to the Israeli embassy. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating Feith. There seems little doubt that he operated in the Pentagon in such a way as to produce false and misleading ‘intelligence,’ that he created an entirely false impression of Iraqi weapons capabilities and ties to al-Qaeda, and that he is among the chief facilitators of the US war in Iraq.

    “Feith is clearly resigning ahead of the possible breaking of major scandals concerning his tenure at the Department of Defense, which is among the more disgraceful cases of the misleading of the American people in American history.”

    Will the Franklin-Rosen-Weissman investigation implicate Feith – or someone higher up in the Washington food chain?

    Get out the chips-and-dip, pull up a chair, and get ready for the trial that is going to rock the War Party to its very foundations. It’s going to be quite a show. As a prelude, go and check out my article on the Franklin affair in the June 20 issue of The American Conservative: the editors have put up a link to give readers a preview of what promises to be yet another blockbuster issue.

    NOTES IN THE MARGIN

    For the real lowdown on the nature and extent of Israel’s covert activities in the U.S., get yourself a copy of my short book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection. Buy it, read it, and then ask yourself: why would an Israeli spy want access to highly sensitive U.S. intelligence regarding al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?

    Read more by Justin Raimondo