United States official Larry Franklin, who was convicted of passing classified information to senior members of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), has lashed out at the Bush administration and the FBI in a series of recent interviews. In his latest interview, given to the Washington Times, Franklin accused the FBI of anti-Semitism.
"You know, I felt dirty sometimes,” Franklin said, detailing his talks with FBI handlers. “One agent said to me, 'How can an Irish Catholic from the Bronx get mixed up with all these....,' and I finished the sentence for him: 'Jews?'” he recalled.
"That [anti-Semitism] dimension was part of this investigation and may have been an initial incitement of this investigation,” he said. In addition to asking him about AIPAC officials and Israeli diplomats, he continued, FBI agents questioned him regarding American Jews serving in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
FBI officials refused to comment on the interview. If Franklin wishes to make a formal complaint regarding allegations of anti-Semitism, he may do so, they said.
A former FBI official told the Times that anti-Semitism was “not my experience” during his career, but said, “There was a great deal of frustration within the FBI in dealing with the Israelis... the Israelis displayed a very real arrogance” with their contacts in Washington.
Former AIPAC staffer Steven Rosen, one of those charged in the case, backed Franklin's claims in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “Within the counter-intelligence bureaucracy of the United States government, there is a virulent ideology about Israel and Jews,” he said. “What these guys believe is that there's a Jewish cabal, a Jewish conspiracy.”
Franklin was sentenced in 2006 to more than 12 years in prison. His sentence was reduced to parole with community service after the American government dropped all charges against AIPAC analysts Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two pro-Israel lobbyists charged with soliciting classified information from Franklin on Israel's behalf.
Franklin: I was a Double Agent
In an interview with the Times on Wednesday, Franklin revealed that he had actually been a double agent, asked by the FBI to gather information on AIPAC. His activities on behalf of the FBI included recording talks with Weissman and Israeli embassy official Naor Gilon.
"I cooperated without a lawyer because I thought we were on the same side,” said Franklin, who said he was “dumbfounded” when he found himself accused of spying for Israel.
The Motivation: Fear of Iraq War
The affair began in 2003, Franklin said, when he spoke to AIPAC officials shortly before the American invasion of Iraq, in what he says was a desperate attempt to postpone or cancel the operation. Franklin, a senior Iran expert, said he was “underwhelmed by the Bush-Rice team,” felt that former President George Bush had “no policy on Iran,” and was “entirely convinced” that American soldiers entering Iraq would face heavy casualties due to Iranian-backed terrorism.
"I knew what the Iranians had prepared for us in Iraq.... And I knew we would be coming home in bunches in body bags if we didn't do something to frighten Iran into neutrality,” he explained.
With his fears dismissed by the Bush administration, Franklin said, he hoped Rosen and Weissman would help him relay his concerns to Elliott Abrams, head of the Middle East desk at the White House National Security Council. Rosen had told Franklin he was friendly with Abrams, Franklin said.
Franklin shared information on the Iranian terrorism threat in Iraq with the two in hopes that they would relay it to Abrams, he said. Among the information he shared were two details considered classified military information, although Franklin claims that at the time, he did not realize that the information was secret.
At that point, FBI agents contacted him and asked him to assist them in taking down Rosen and Weissman, he said. Convinced by his handlers that the two were “bad people,” and disappointed that Rosen had shared his information on Iran with the Washington Post, Franklin agreed to help.
While admitting to sharing classified information, Franklin added, “I didn't do anything morally wrong. I was totally motivated by love of this republic and knowingly risked by job, my clearance and the welfare of my family because I thought it was important to do.”
Franklin is currently completing 10 months of community service.