A Pro-Israel Lobby and an FBI Sting

(New Yorker) Jeffrey Goldberg - * The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbies for Israel's financial and physical security. Before Steven Rosen came to AIPAC in 1982 (he had been at the Rand Corporation, the defense-oriented think tank), the group focused mainly on Congress. But Rosen arrived brandishing a new idea: that the organization could influence the outcome of policy disputes within the executive branch - in particular, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council. * Rosen began to court officials, and his reports to AIPAC's leaders helped them track currents in Middle East policymaking before those currents coalesced into executive orders. Rosen also used his contacts to carry AIPAC's agenda to the White House. President Bush, speaking at the annual AIPAC conference in May 2004, said, "You've always understood and warned against the evil ambition of terrorism and their networks. In a dangerous new century, your work is more vital than ever." * Rosen was fired earlier this year, nine months after he became implicated in an FBI espionage investigation. Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, expects him to be indicted on charges of passing secret information about Iranian intelligence activities in Iraq to an official of the Israeli Embassy and to a Washington Post reporter. Keith Weissman, who served as an Iran analyst for AIPAC until he, too, was fired, may face similar charges. * The person who, in essence, ended Rosen's career is Lawrence Franklin, until recently the Pentagon's Iran desk officer, who was indicted last month on espionage charges. In February 2003, Franklin told the lobbyists that Secretary of State Powell was resisting attempts by the Pentagon to formulate a tougher Iran policy. He apparently hoped to use AIPAC to lobby the Administration. On June 26, 2003, Franklin reportedly told Rosen and Weissman about a draft of a National Security Presidential Directive that outlined a series of tougher steps that the U.S. could take against the Iranian leadership. Franklin did not hand over a copy of the draft, but he described its contents, and, according to the indictment, talked about the "state of internal U.S. government deliberations." * In June 2004, FBI agents searched Franklin's Pentagon office and his home in West Virginia, and allegedly found 83 classified documents. Franklin faced ruin - the documents could cost him his job, the agents said. Franklin agreed to cooperate in the investigation of Rosen and Weissman. He was wired, and on July 21, Franklin called Weissman and said that he had to speak to him immediately. * Franklin, who held a top-secret security clearance, allegedly told Weissman that he had new, classified information indicating that Iranian agents were planning to kidnap and kill Israelis in northern Iraq. American intelligence knew about the threat, Franklin said, but Israel might not. He also said that the Iranians had infiltrated southern Iraq, and were planning attacks on American soldiers. Rosen and Weissman, Franklin hoped, could insure that senior Administration officials received this news. * Weissman hurried back to AIPAC's headquarters and briefed Rosen and Howard Kohr, AIPAC's executive director. Rosen and Weissman called the political counselor at the Israeli Embassy, Naor Gilon, and told him about the threat to Israeli agents in Iraq, and called Glenn Kessler, a diplomatic correspondent at the Washington Post, and told him about the threat to Americans. * Last month, I met with Rosen, who said, "Our job at AIPAC was to understand what the government is doing, in order to help form better policies, in the interests of the U.S. I've never done anything illegal or harmful to the U.S. I never even dreamed of doing anything harmful to the U.S." Later, he said, "We did not knowingly receive classified information from Larry Franklin." * Rosen said that he was particularly upset by the allegation th

2005-06-30 00:00:00

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