The plea bargain struck by former Pentagon analyst Lawrence A. Franklin charged with five counts of handing over classified information to officials of a pro-Israel lobbying group, who passed it on to Israeli diplomatic personnel has delivered a body blow to the defense of the two remaining accused spies. Steve Rosen, who for 20 years was the chief lobbyist over at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s top foreign policy analyst, befriended Franklin and pumped him for top-secret information including sensitive data about al-Qaeda, the Khobar Towers terrorist attack, Iran’s weapons program, and attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Now they face the likely prospect of Franklin testifying to their treason in court.
For months, AIPAC’s defenders have been bruiting it about that this prosecution is persecution, that the whole thing is a “setup.” What Rosen, Weissman, and Franklin are accused of is routine, said their defenders “everybody does it” and the decision to go after AIPAC is thinly disguised anti-Semitism, the 21st century American equivalent of Kristallnacht. They have impugned the FBI as some sort of neo-Nazi outfit, exonerated the accused before even hearing the charges, and engaged in a smear campaign against anyone who wonders why it is that a purportedly American organization is engaged in an intelligence-gathering operation involving the transfer of top-secret information to a foreign government.
Now the man they portrayed as being a persecuted victim is admitting that, yes, he spied for Israel, and, furthermore, the clear implication of this apparent plea bargain is that he is prepared to expose the spy ring that Israel was and perhaps still is running inside AIPAC, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington.
This case has received relatively little publicity in relation to its importance. It isn’t just the fact that, for the first time in recent memory, Israel’s powerful lobby has been humbled. What is going on here is the exposure of Israel’s underground army in the U.S. covert legions of propagandists and outright spies, whose job it is to not only make the case for Israel but to bend American policy to suit Israel’s needs (and, in the process, penetrate closely-held U.S. secrets).
Particularly fascinating is the apparent longevity of the ongoing investigation: the implication of the latest indictment [.pdf] is that FBI counterintelligence officials have been looking into Israel’s covert activities in the U.S. since at least 1999, when Rosen apparently was observed telling a “foreign official” that he (Rosen) had “picked up an extremely sensitive piece of intelligence” identified as “codeword protected.” At this meeting, the indictment avers, Rosen handed over this information regarding “terrorist activities in Central Asia” to the foreign official.
The AIPAC spy nest has been burrowing deeply into Washington’s official secrets without regard for propriety or party. The indictment describes the duo’s extensive contacts with a wide range of U.S. government officials, Israeli diplomats, and other individuals, none of them identified by name. However, two have been subsequently outed in the media by sources close to the investigation: they are David Satterfield, a deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs and now the second most senior U.S. government representative in occupied Iraq, and Kenneth Pollack, who served on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. Said Pollack: “I believe I am USGO-1,” identified in the second indictment as having met with Rosen and Weissman on Dec. 12, 2000. Pollack handed over classified information about “strategy options” against an unidentified “Middle Eastern country.”
Pollack, a key Democratic Party foreign policy adviser, authored an influential book, The Threatening Storm, which convinced many liberals to jump on board the pro-war bandwagon. “If we observe how we were lied into war with Iraq, and by whom,” I wrote in May, “the whole affair looks more like an Israeli covert operation by the day.” The AIPAC spy scandal is confirming this in spades and much else, too. It is also showing that the Israelis were not about to stop with Iraq, but were and are lobbying furiously for more military action in the Middle East, this time aiming for regime change in Tehran. The indictments issued against Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman describe a systematic attempt by Israel’s fifth column in Washington to garner top-secret U.S. intelligence about Iran, its weapons program, and U.S. deliberations about what action to take.
The chief beneficiaries of the conquest of Iraq, and subsequent threats against both Iran and Syria, have been, in descending order, Israel, Iran, and Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda has used the invasion as a recruiting tool and training ground for its global jihad against the United States. Iran has extended its influence deep into southern Iraq and has penetrated the central government in Baghdad. In the long run, however, Israel benefits the most, as a major Middle Eastern Arab country fragments into at least three pieces and the U.S. military is ineluctably drawn into neighboring countries.
While the U.S. imposes an occupation eerily reminiscent of Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestinian lands and prepares to deal with Israel’s enemies in the region, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon makes major incursions into the West Bank, even while supposedly “withdrawing” from Gaza. In the meantime, the political and military bonds between the U.S. and Israel are strengthened, as the two allies present an indissoluble united front against the entire Muslim world.
Except the alliance is far from indissoluble, as the AIPAC spy scandal reveals. The U.S.-Israeli relationship, often described as “special,” is rather more ambiguous than is generally recognized, both by Israel’s staunchest friends and its most implacable enemies. This has come out in Israel’s funneling American military technology to China, and the threat of American sanctions, but was also made manifest earlier by indications that Israel was conducting extensive spying operations in the U.S. prior to 9/11 suspicions that are considerably strengthened by the AIPAC spy brouhaha.
Israel’s secret war against America has so far been conducted in the dark, but the Rosen-Weissman trial will expose these night creatures to the light of day. Blinking and cursing, they’ll be confronted with their treason, and, even as they whine that “everybody does it,” the story of how and why a cabal of foreign agents came to exert so much influence on the shape of U.S. foreign policy will be told.
In the course of bending American policy to the Israelis’ will, they had to compromise the national security of the United States and that’s what tripped them up, in the end.
The blogger Billmon succinctly summed up how this case throws a new light on the real contours of U.S.-Israeli relations and puts an entirely different face on the “special relationship”:
“While the marriage may look like perfect conjugal bliss from the Washington end, the Jerusalem end has a different point of view and always will. The Israelis understand, even if their American patrons do not, that they live in another country, one with its own national interests, its own strategic ambitions and its own enemies, none of which necessarily overlap with America’s.
“They don’t even make much of an attempt to hide it, as this writer for David Horowitz’s Frontpage (to Israel what the Daily Worker once was to the Soviet Union) makes clear: ‘A more independent Israel is determined to make its own mark on the world questioning U.S. authority more frequently in order to establish its own autonomous relations with other countries.’
“A good idea. It’s just a shame our own political lap dogs and their media water carriers won’t do likewise.”
The Soviet analogy is very apt, The success of both the KGB and the Mossad in Washington, albeit at different times, was in both cases enabled by an alliance born of political necessity as well as military utility. Our World War II alliance with the Soviets made the KGB’s job a lot easier, allowing them to set up a network based on ideological loyalty that later reaped intelligence dividends. In addition, there was a lot of domestic political pressure to give the Russians what they wanted, as the Communists took the lead in dragging us into war in order to save Stalin’s “workers’ paradise” from Hitler’s legions. America’s longstanding relationship with Israel similarly gave the Israelis the basic structure of a very efficient and increasingly bold spying apparatus in the U.S., the tentacles of which reached into the upper echelons of the U.S. government, including the Pentagon. AIPAC functions simultaneously as a lobbying group one whose will is rarely defied by legislators and as a key link in the chain of espionage that binds us to the Israelis in a very “special relationship.”
Israel’s legendary Mossad intelligence service, with its reputation for both efficiency and ruthlessness, reportedly shadowed the 9/11 hijackers on American soil as they prepared to launch the biggest terrorist attack in our history. Multiple sources reported a large-scale surveillance operation directed at U.S. government buildings, including offices of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, U.S. courthouses, and some military bases and research facilities. The AIPAC spy cell in Washington was the brain, and the “Israeli art students” whose movements shadowed the hijackers in Florida and elsewhere were the arms and feet of a subterranean creature whose dimensions we are only just beginning to discover.