“A lobby is like a night flower,” wrote Steven Rosen, a top official of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.” With the light of day shining brightly on AIPAC’s spy mission for Israel in the Pentagon, will one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington just curl up and blow away?
Even as the headlines were proclaiming their treason, AIPAC officials were feting Republicans at the GOP convention, braying that the charges are “outrageous.” But what’s outrageous is that so many prominent Republicans were openly consorting with an organization suspected of espionage, a claque of known fifth columnists who put the interests of a foreign country – Israel – above those of their own.
First identified in the Jersusalem Post as one of two AIPAC officials interviewed by the feds in connection with this case, Rosen is the “research director” for what is widely seen as a formidable presence among Washington lobbyists, and is “considered one of the most influential people in the organization.” But he may have been a little too vigorous in pursuing one particular “research” project, which reportedly had him acting as a conduit for classified documents secreted from the Pentagon by Larry Franklin, a “mid-level” official and neoconservative ideologue working in Douglas Feith‘s Pentagon policy shop. Franklin is also reported to have met with an Israeli diplomat, Naor Gilon, who was apparently being watched by the authorities, according to this Newsweek report.
As FBI counterintelligence chief Dave Szady homed in on his prey, and “behind the scenes” government lawyers prepared to make the first arrests by issuing a criminal complaint against one or more figures in the case,” Israel’s amen corner went into hyper-drive, blowing more smoke than a NORML convention. My favorite was the line, gloatingly repeated by Israeli government officials, that they didn’t need to spy on the U.S., because they already know all our secrets worth knowing – and the rest they can have by just asking. Aside from being untrue – they sure didn’t know that their mole, Franklin, had been busted and turned into an informant, at least not until Lesley Stahl broke the story – this is hardly reassuring.
The U.S. and Israel are, after all, separate countries, and, as much as America’s Likudniks don’t like to acknowledge it, the two nations have separate and often conflicting interests, no matter how many times Congress votes to kiss Ariel Sharon’s butt while stuffing another few million into his g-string. Jonathan Pollard stole the crown jewels of the American intelligence community and Israel sold them to the Soviet Union in exchange for an influx of Soviet Jews – who are now being supported with American tax dollars in the form of $3 billion in annual tribute to Tel Aviv.
Oh, but we’ve learned our lesson, they cry and we’ll never ever do it again.
We aren’t just talking about somebody showing the Israelis some policy papers, but an investigation that has been going on since 2002, involving extensive electronic and telephonic intercepts, photographs, and other evidence gathered by methods that required the approval of a special counterintelligence court presided over by a judge. Attempts by AIPAC, and the Israeli government (or do I repeat myself?) to minimize both Franklin’s importance and the extent of the damage done to our national security are being blown out of the water as the scandal expands at a seemingly exponential rate. In addition to the theft of classified documents, including a draft presidential directive, the Israeli spy ring in the Pentagon has other tentacles, reaching into:
The Niger uranium forgeries, which inferentially found their way into the President’s 2003 State of the Union address. Former CIA agent Larry Johnson, interviewed on MSNBC the other night, had this to say:
“What I’ve been told is that there’s a strong belief that the forgery was carried out by Israel in an effort to help build up the evidence to allow the United States to justify going to war. So, this whole thing that started with the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA officer, started growing and expanding when they saw that there’s this forged memo and then people linked to the office of – in the office of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Department of Defense were seen as having some very close contacts and sharing information with the Israeli intelligence sources.”
The Franklin Affair is connected to a bigger tentacle, “a broader probe” which, the Boston Globe reports, “is trying to determine whether Defense Department officials went outside normal channels to gather intelligence on Iraq or overstepped their legal mandate by meeting with dissidents to plot against Iran and Syria, according to Bush administration and congressional officials.”
Franklin, who – like some others under investigation – is “singing like a canary,” as one wag put it, is thought to have knowledge of the nixed deal between the Iranians and the U.S., in which Tehran agreed to hand over al-Qaeda leaders, including a son of bin Laden’s, in exchange for the Mujahideen e Khalq, an Iranian Marxist terrorist group. As the Jerusalem Post reports:
“The FBI’s investigation of Larry Franklin began not long after it was leaked that the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans sent two Defense officials, one of them Franklin, to Paris to meet with a dissident Iranian arms trader.
The latter, Manucher Ghorbanifar, played a central role in the Iran-Contra affair – in which Israel had a major involvement – in the mid 1980’s.
“The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaida operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.”
The Franklin-Ghorbanifar meetings, also involving policy analyst Harold Rhode and neocon guru Michael Ledeen, throw the spotlight on the activities of a pro-Israel cabal in the highest reaches of the U.S. government. As a piece by Joshua Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris in The Washington Monthly put it,
“The DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a ‘regime change’ agenda not approved by the president’s foreign policy principals or even the president himself.”
Now that Steve Rosen has had his computer seized, and top Pentagon officials are being interviewed – including Franklin’s bosses, Feith and Paul Wolfowitz – and it looks like the case is going forward full speed ahead – so is Israel’s fifth column in the U.S., which is going on the offensive with a spirited defense of their spy nest.
David Frum, the fired White House speech writer who co-authored the infamous “axis of evil” jeremiad, writes in National Review that the whole incident is a “triumph of media manipulation,” and “a non-story”: whatever transactions occurred between Franklin and the Israelis were just an exchange of “personal opinion,” and did not involve classified documents. So move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Yeah, but why has the FBI been watching the Israelis and their co-conspirators in the U.S., utilizing sophisticated surveillance techniques requiring an order from a special court, for at least two years? Frum’s answer:
“There are figures inside the US government who want to see Israel treated, not as the ally it is by law and treaty (Israel like Japan, Australia, and New Zealand is designated a ‘major non-NATO ally’ for intelligence- and technology-sharing purposes) but as the source of all the trouble in the Middle East and the world. They have injected their own hysterical agenda into the reporting of what would otherwise be a story of an FBI investigation that found nothing much.”
Frum’s apologia for the Israeli spy nest is headlined “Jewish Conspiracies in the Pentagon?” But Frum, as we can see, is the conspiracy theorist here. According to him, the whole thing is part of a Vast Anti-Semitic Conspiracy entrenched in the highest reaches of the Justice Department and other agencies of the U.S. government. Aside from being silly on the face of it, the big problem with Frum’s wacky theory is that Franklin isn’t even Jewish – he’s an ideologue who’s drunk enough of the neocons’ Kool-Aid to reconcile his political views with his devout Catholicism.
The contours of the neocons’ defense are already taking an all-too-familiar shape: as Michael Ledeen put it,
“We’re dealing with incompetence or McCarthyism. In either case, it’s disgusting.”
It is extremely odd to be reading this sort of rhetoric in the pages of National Review, because it was the founder of that magazine, William F. Buckley, Jr., who was a principal supporter of McCarthy. Buckley wrote a book, McCarthy and His Enemies, defending the anti-Communist senator from Wisconsin as being essentially correct about the extent of Communist infiltration of the U.S. government under FDR and Truman. Furthermore, as the Venona transcripts revealed, McCarthy had sorely underestimated the extent to which the Soviets had penetrated U.S. government institutions. He was not only right: he was righter than he knew.
If the FBI’s investigation into Israel’s spy nest in the Pentagon is an example of “McCarthyism” in action, then perhaps we can assume that the cabal‘s influence reaches far higher than investigators presently believe.
The Pentagon spy scandal is proof that Israel, seeking to manipulate us at every turn, utilized its agents – paid and unpaid – in the U.S., operating at the highest levels of government, to influence and even make policy to suit Israeli rather than American interests. Ruthless in their tactics – and careless, perhaps due to their increasing desperation – the American Likudniks resorted to clumsily illegal means: outing CIA agent Valerie Plame, introducing forgeries and other phony “evidence” of Iraqi WMD into the American intelligence stream, and passing classified documents to Israel, until they were finally tripped up by their own hubris and sense of inviolability. After all, the Bush administration wouldn’t dare prosecute, for fear of alienating their vehemently pro-Israel Christian fundie base – would they?
Apparently they would. Franklin, having turned state’s evidence weeks ago, has been telling federal prosecutors in Virginia what he knows, and that is probably plenty. Franklin is the crowbar that law enforcement officials are using to unearth Israel’s pod people in the Pentagon.
It is beyond belief that top Republican and Democratic members of Congress, notably Reps. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, and Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, are openly warning law enforcement to back off from doing their job: We “will want to look carefully at any allegations that might endanger our national security,” avers Blunt. So, according to the Honorable Mr. Blunt, it’s the allegations, and not the possibility that there might be something to them, that “endanger our national security.”
I’ll tell you what endangers our national security: politicians, lobbyists, and “activists” who put the interests of a foreign country above those of their native – or adopted – land. And don’t hand me that malarkey about how Israeli and American interests are identical, especially since 9/11: the interests of all nations diverge on account of their separateness. Israel, in spite of its pretensions, is not the 51st state: the objectives of Israeli policy naturally deviate from our own, given their geography and our need to win over Arab and Muslim allies in the campaign to stamp out al-Qaeda.
If you want to understand the post-9/11 rampage that fairly describes our foreign policy since the twin towers fell, just think of the campaign of lies, scare-mongering, and secret manipulations of “intelligence” as an Israeli covert action. Before they invaded Kurdistan, they had already penetrated Washington and taken over key centers of power: and, when they didn’t have the formal authority, they simply went off on their own, as with the Ledeen-Franklin-Ghorbanifar meetings or “Operation Copper Green,” the Pentagon’s secret army of torturers.
Let the neocons scream “McCarthyism!” all they want. Because McCarthy was right – and so are those of us who have been pointing to Israeli subversion of U.S. national security since November of 2001. AIPAC must come clean, or be disbanded. Don’t they know there’s a war on? Oh, but Israel is our great friend, our closest ally – they’re on our side.
Are they? The lesson of the Franklin affair is that they aren’t. And what about their “American” amen corner? The neocons, for all their “patriotic” bluster, seem unnaturally defensive and militant in their denials that Israel could ever be involved in espionage against the U.S., well before all the evidence is in. Espionage charges against any other nation on earth would not evoke such a passionate defense, and it’s ironic that the alleged super-patriots over at National Review and David Horowitz’s propaganda mill would so readily man the barricades on behalf of accused spies and foreign agents.
NORVILLE: And Paul Wolfowitz.
CLANCY: Is he really on our side?
NORVILLE: You genuinely ask that question? Is he on our side?
CLANCY: I sat in on – I was in the Pentagon in ’01 for a red team operation and he came in and briefed us. And after the brief, I just thought, is he really on our side? Sorry.
Clancy sure got that one right – and that pretty well sums up what the Franklin Affair is all about. Writing in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Ze’ev Schiff relates the following story:
“Before former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency head George Tenet retired, he made stinging comments on various occasions to Israeli officials in the intelligence community, especially the Mossad, saying Israel had a spy in America. The accusation was rejected out of hand – Tenet was even loudly challenged to catch any such agent and expose him publicly.”
Tenet, it seems, has taken up the challenge. And more power to him. So let’s hear no more whining from the peanut gallery, no complaints of “McCarthyism” from our fake “conservatives.” The Israelis are getting just what they asked for.