Franklin admits he disclosed classified information in AIPAC affair
By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
addressing an AIPAC conference in Washington
on May 23. (Haaretz Archive)
WASHINGTON - Pentagon official Larry Franklin has admitted that he may have disclosed classified information to a foreign official who was not authorized to receive it. The admission appeared in an FBI affidavit submitted to a U.S. District Court last week.
A Virginia grand jury is expected to indict Franklin for giving classified information to representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in the coming days.
The charges will replace the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Justice Department at the beginning of the month.
Haaretz reported on Monday the U.S. Justice Department is also expected to file indictments against two former senior American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers - Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman - and, according to sources familiar with the affair, the charges will be subsumed under the Espionage Act.
According to sources, the grand jury will submit indictments against Rosen, the former head of foreign policy for the lobbying organization, and against Weissman, who was responsible for the Iranian brief in AIPAC.
Franklin appeared last Wednesday before a Federal District Court judge in West Virginia, where he was indicted for holding secret documents in his residence.
Franklin was released on $50,000 bail last week and his court date was set for the beginning of September. The Justice Department is also expected to indict two former senior AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, in the next few weeks on charges covered under the Espionage Act.
According to an FBI affidavit filed on May 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, "Franklin admitted that he may have disclosed information from one of the classified documents found at his residence to a foreign official who was not authorized to receive that information."
The official was believed to be Naor Gilon of the Israeli embassy in Washington, although his name and Israel have not been mentioned in any official legal documents.
Gilon maintained professional ties with Franklin as part of his responsibilities as chief of political affairs at the embassy; he is not suspected of any wrong doing in the affair.
The FBI affidavit says that on July 13, 2004, Franklin came to the bureau for questioning and was shown secret documents which had been found in his residence during a search two weeks earlier. He admitted that he had taken 34 of them home between October 2003 and June 2004.
Franklin and Gilon first made contact when the Pentagon official visited Israel as a American air force reservist, attached to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Franklin requested a routine briefing by Gilon, who worked in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
When Gilon was appointed head of political affairs at the Washington embassy, he kept in touch with Franklin, who was then posted at the Pentagon's Iran Desk. The two maintained routine ties, typical of the regular diplomatic work at embassies in the American capital.
The two indictments issued against Franklin do not mention handing information to a foreign agent. The charges focus on transferring secret information to AIPAC staffers and holding secret documents illegally. However, the fact that the FBI affidavits say Franklin admitted giving information to a foreign official leaves an opening for future charges against him.
The classified material was said to involve information about Iranian intentions to harm U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and was supposedly given to the two former AIPAC staffers during lunch in Virginia on June 26, 2003.