Friday, May 20, 2005

Haaretz - Analysis: A rare peek at what really happened in AIPAC affair

Haaretz - Israel News: "Analysis: A rare peek at what really happened in AIPAC affair

By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday provided a rare first peek at what really happened in the Franklin-AIPAC affair.

The ten pages of the indictment reveal that Larry Franklin was under close surveillance and that every aspect of the case had been looked into: He was followed to meetings, his home and office were searched, and there were wiretaps.

But the indictment still leaves three significant questions unanswered: What information was transferred, what, if anything, are the AIPAC people suspected of, and if and how is Israel involved in the case.

When the affair first came to light, U.S. media reports said that Franklin had transferred information to Israel on Iran, but the indictment actually talks about information on Iraq and a possible threat to U.S. soldiers. The media also said that at one stage, Franklin cooperated with his investigators and agreed to take part in a "sting" operation during which he would transfer information planted by the FBI to AIPAC.

According to the information published Wednesday, it is still hard to say whether there was a sting operation or whether it was a real passing of information. It is still not at all clear why Franklin bothered to pass on the Iraq information to AIPAC if it had nothing to do with Israel.

For the purposes of the indictment, however, it does not actually matter what information was transferred, just that the information was classified.

The principal question is the second one - what was the role of "U.S. Person 1" and "U.S. Person 2," as the two dismissed AIPAC officials who received information from Franklin, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are referred to in the indictment.

FBI investigators go to great lengths in the indictment to explain that Franklin clearly told the two that the information was "highly classified" and that he asked them not to use it. If the FBI has proof of this, it will make it very difficult for the AIPAC officials to defend themselves, as they cannot claim that they did not know what type of information they were receiving.

Rosen and Weissman have already been questioned by the FBI, but they have not yet appeared before the grand jury investigating the affair, reinforcing the impression that the investigation has not yet been completed.

It will now be up to their attorneys to bring the matter to a close outside the court walls, to avoid a very public probe of the way in which they worked, as well as the way the lobby they worked for operated at the time.

Is Israel involved? An Israeli source in Washington said Wednesday that no one at the embassy is under suspicion and that the embassy only knows the details of the affair from the press. The indictment does not mention Israel, it only states that Franklin transferred information to a "foreign official."

We will only learn whether Israel is involved in the Franklin-AIPAC affair when the investigation reaches the next stage and the details of the suspicions against Rosen and Weissman are revealed."