FBI Probes Pentagon Spy Case
August 27, 2004 5:14 PM   Subscribe

FBI Probes Pentagon Spy Case - Interesting how bad news about the Bush Administration seems to always come out on Fridays - "the FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to -- in FBI terminology -- "roll up" someone agents believe has been spying not for an enemy, but for Israel from within the office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon."
posted by jackspace (37 comments total)
Does Alex Jones know about this? 'Cos man, oh man, he is gonna be pissed.
posted by keswick at 5:17 PM on August 27, 2004

It's amazing that Israel even needs spies--you'd think we tell them whatever they want anyway.
posted by amberglow at 5:25 PM on August 27, 2004

I'm surprised Israel has any staff to spare, what with all the folks they have printing up Canadian passports. (Pre-emptive note to would-be pedants: the fact that the links are 6 years apart is the point.)
posted by stonerose at 5:31 PM on August 27, 2004

This is probably very bad news for Ariel Sharon.
posted by jackspace at 5:32 PM on August 27, 2004

Hmm, supposed to be someone in Feith's office.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:52 PM on August 27, 2004

Why are there so many vacancies on that there flow chart, CL? Isn't this supposed to be kind of important stuff? Couldn't we move some people over from somewhere else so we could get this stuff covered?

Enquiring minds want to know.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:03 PM on August 27, 2004

I noticed that too. Weird.

First Chalabi, now this. The neocons are kinda looking like suckers aren't they?
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:26 PM on August 27, 2004

I can't really fault Bush for this one, at least not from anything in the linked article. Who installed him into the Pentagon, who found him out, who else knew, how long did it take between suspicions and actions? The denial of the AIPAC of any wrong doing on it's part or it's employees needs to be considered. I suppose if I were in their position the most I'd say is that we're investigating the situation.
posted by substrate at 6:49 PM on August 27, 2004

Feith's office?! Why am I not surprised?

"Ok, raise your hands if you're someone in this department who *ISN'T* working for the Israelis..."
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:54 PM on August 27, 2004

If Russia did this twenty years ago, there'd have been all sorts of hell to pay. If China did this now, there'd be bloody hell to pay.

It'll be interesting to see what happens.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:27 PM on August 27, 2004

Logical candidate: Harold Rhode. Note Chalabi/Iranian link

[A] "senior Administration official identified two of the Defense officials who met Mr. Ghorbanifar as Harold Rhode, Mr. Feith's top Middle East specialist, and Larry Franklin, a Defence Intelligence Agency analyst on loan to the undersecretary's office."

Of the two liaisons mentioned in the Australian paper's report, the most interesting for Ledeen watchers is Mr. Rhode. As the report points out, "Mr. Rhode recently acted as a liaison between Mr. Feith's office, which drafted much of the Administration's post-Iraq planning, and Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile groomed for leadership by the Pentagon. Mr. Rhode is a protege of Michael Ledeen, who was a National Security Council consultant in the mid 1980s when he introduced Mr. Ghorbanifar to Oliver North, a NSC aide, and others in the opening stages of the Iran-Contra affair. It is understood Mr. Ledeen reopened the Ghorbanifar channel with Mr. Feith's staff."

posted by rdone at 7:28 PM on August 27, 2004

"I can't really fault Bush for this one..."

So, Bush appoints Feith, Bush appoints Perle, Bush appoints Wolfowitz... and you can't fault Bush that one of his appointees hired an Israeli spy?!

That's like saying Eisenhower wouldn't have been responsible for Soviet espionage had he hired former members of the Communist Party to oversee the military.

Let me quote a few of those articles for ya...

"In 1970... An FBI wiretap authorized for the Israeli Embassy picked up Perle discussing with an Embassy official classified information..."

"In 1978, (Wolfowitz) was investigated for providing a classified document on the proposed sale of U.S. weapons to an Arab government, to an Israel Government official, through an AIPAC intermediary."

Wow. Wolfowitz?! Gee, that incident sure sounds familiar somehow.

Yeah, sure glad that the president isn't at fault here...
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:29 PM on August 27, 2004

"the case is likely to attract intense attention because the official being investigated works under William J. Luti, deputy under secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. Luti oversaw the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans," which conducted some of the early policy work for the 2003 invasion of Iraq."

posted by CunningLinguist at 7:51 PM on August 27, 2004

"The Pentagon analyst who officials said is under suspicion was one of two department officials who traveled to Paris for a secret meeting with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer who had been a central figure in the Iran-contra affair." - NYT

From Newsweek Dec 22:

"Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian spy who helped launch the Iran-contra affair, says one of the things he discussed with Defense officials Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin at meetings in Rome in December 2001 (and in Paris last June with only Rhode) was regime change in Iran."
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2004

Hmm, this doesn't sound like spying in the traditional sense (by which I mean that it doesn't sound, from the scraps of information here, that Israel was actually running this guy as an agent).

Between the odd job position of the alleged 'spy' (crafting pentagon policy, rather than dealing with, say, ultra-classified intelligence gathering), the fact that this was very oddly done through AIPAC, the fact that the FBI doesn't feel the need to arrest this guy immediately, and the fact that this is apparently coming from Feith's office where they're all likudniks anyway, my guess is that this is more a case of someone sharing classified information improperly. I mean, it's not as though (for better or worse) Israel can't influence our Iran policy through more direct channels.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:14 PM on August 27, 2004

It's amazing that Israel even needs spies--you'd think we tell them whatever they want anyway.

Which begs the question...
posted by Krrrlson at 10:14 PM on August 27, 2004

the answer to that question is Saudi shill--clearly. Prince Bandar and Bush might as well be sleeping together.

both Bushes haven't been the friends to Israel you'd expect, and Bush turned off Israelis and Jews (not that the majority of us wouldn't ever vote for him) in 2000 by trying so hard to get the Arab-American vote. His daddy was worse, and James Baker (Mr. "fuck the Jews--they don't vote for us anyway") didn't/doesn't help.

I think it's inadvertent--the Israeli support for Bush--we're attacking their enemies for them, saving them trouble, but actually causing more trouble for them down the road.
posted by amberglow at 10:33 PM on August 27, 2004

For months, I have been working with my colleagues Paul Glastris and Josh Marshall on a story for the Washington Monthly about US policy towards Iran. In particular, it involves a particular series of meetings involving officials from the office of the undersecretary of defense for Policy Doug Feith and Iranian dissidents.

As part of our reporting, I have come into possession of information that points to an official who is the most likely target of the FBI investigation into who allegedly passed intelligence on deliberations on US foreign policy to Iran to officials with the pro-Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, and to the Israelis, as alleged by the CBS report. That individual is Larry Franklin, a veteran DIA Iran analyst seconded to Feith’s office.Here is what I was told in the days before the FBI investigation came to light.

A source told me that some time in July, Larry Franklin called him and asked him to meet him in a coffee shop in Northern Virginia. Franklin had intelligence on hostile Iranian activities in Iraq and was extremely frustrated that he did not feel this intelligence was getting the attention and response it deserved. The intelligence included information that the Iranians had called all of their intelligence operatives who speak Arabic to southern Iraq, that it had moved their top operative for Afghanistan, a guy named Qudzi, to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, that its operatives were targeting Iraqi state oil facilities, and that Iranian agents were infiltrating into northern Iraq to target the Israelis written about in a report by Seymour Hersh. According to my source, Franklin passed the information to the individual from AIPAC with the hope it could reach people at higher levels of the US government who would act on it. AIPAC presented the information to Elliot Abrams in the NSC. They also presented the part that involved Israelis who might be targeted to the Israelis, with the motivation to protect Israeli lives.

Laura Rozen
posted by y2karl at 10:38 PM on August 27, 2004

Well, heck, if Bush were in bed with Israel they wouldn't need to spy on him, would they?

posted by Joey Michaels at 1:12 AM on August 28, 2004

more from the Guardian, background and overview here and some plenty of links to the current situation at the Guardian weblog.
posted by triv at 2:36 AM on August 28, 2004

Assuming there is some truth that will come out, the issue ithat causes concern for so many is not that China or some other hostile country might have planted a spy but that a friendly nation has done so...I for one would like to see that guy jailed if he is indeed a spy. I also thank the good lord that America never spies on its allies and friends, either with planted human spies or eledtronic eavesdropping.
posted by Postroad at 4:59 AM on August 28, 2004

The Pollard affair, forging Canadian passports, passport fraud in New Zealand, and now (possibly) this. At what point does it stop being an "isolated incident" and start becoming a pattern?
posted by laz-e-boy at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2004

I also thank the good lord that America never spies on its allies and friends, either with planted human spies or eledtronic eavesdropping.

You're playing the straight man deliberately, right?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 AM on August 28, 2004

This is just great. So there is an Israeli spy in the DoD who coordinates with Chalabi who is an Iranian spy to get the US to remove Hussein from Iraq which serves both of their interests. Quite possibly we will find out that Israel was behind the Niger uranium forgeries as well. On the other hand, Bush could bury all of this in the interest of national security.
posted by JackFlash at 9:32 AM on August 28, 2004

Iran-Contra II? - Fresh scrutiny on a rogue Pentagon operation.

On Friday evening, CBS News reported that the FBI is investigating a suspected mole in the Department of Defense who allegedly passed to Israel, via a pro-Israeli lobbying organization, classified American intelligence about Iran. The focus of the investigation, according to U.S. government officials, is Larry Franklin, a veteran Defense Intelligence Agency Iran analyst now working in the office of the Pentagon's number three civilian official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

The investigation of Franklin is now shining a bright light on a shadowy struggle within the Bush administration over the direction of U.S. policy toward Iran. In particular, the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more-senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up...

While the FBI is looking at the meetings as part of its criminal investigation, to congressional investigators the Ghorbanifar back-channel exemplifies the out-of-control bureaucratic turf wars which have characterized and often hobbled Bush administration policy-making. And an investigation by The Washington Monthly -- including a rare interview with Ghorbanifar -- adds weight to those concerns. The meetings turn out to have been far more extensive and much less under White House control than originally reported. One of the meetings, which Pentagon officials have long characterized as merely a "chance encounter" seems in fact to have been planned long in advance by Rhode and Ghorbanifar. Another has never been reported in the American press. The administration's reluctance to disclose these details seems clear: the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself.

posted by y2karl at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2004

FBI espionage probe goes beyond Israeli allegations, sources say

An FBI probe into the handling of highly classified material by Pentagon civilians is broader than previously reported, and goes well beyond allegations that a single mid-level analyst gave a top-secret Iran policy document to Israel, three sources familiar with the investigation said Saturday.

The probe, which has been going on for more than two years, also has focused on other civilians in the Secretary of Defense's office, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, but who have first-hand knowledge of the subject.

In addition, one said, FBI investigators in recent weeks have conducted interviews to determine whether Pentagon officials gave highly classified U.S. intelligence to a leading Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, which may in turn have passed it on to Iran. INC leader Ahmed Chalabi has denied his group was involved in any wrongdoing.

The linkage, if any, between the two leak investigations, remains unclear.

But they both center on the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's No. 3 official.

Feith's office, which oversees policy matters, has been the source of numerous controversies over the last three years. His office had close ties to Chalabi and was responsible for post-war Iraq planning that the administration has now acknowledged was inadequate. Before the war, Feith and his aides pushed the now-discredited theory that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaida.

Analyst Who Is Target of Probe Went to Israel

Others in Washington, however, maintained that Israel does present a problem for the United States in certain aspects of intelligence, such as sensitive defense technologies and Iran policy.

Israel sees Iran as the single biggest threat to its existence, and so closely monitors all possible moves in Washington's Iranian policy -- especially as the Bush administration presses Tehran to disclose more about the state of its nuclear program.

One former State Department officer recalled being told that U.S. government experts considered the countries whose spying most threatened the United States were Russia, South Korea and Israel. "I also know from my time in Jerusalem that official U.S. visitors to Israel were warned about the counterintelligence threat from Israel," he said.

This piece by Karen Kwiatkowski is worth a re-read now:

The new Pentagon papers

From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it.

I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies.

I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.

While this commandeering of a narrow segment of both intelligence production and American foreign policy matched closely with the well-published desires of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of us in the Pentagon, conservatives and liberals alike, felt that this agenda, whatever its flaws or merits, had never been openly presented to the American people. Instead, the public story line was a fear-peddling and confusing set of messages, designed to take Congress and the country into a war of executive choice, a war based on false pretenses, and a war one year later Americans do not really understand. That is why I have gone public with my account...

At the time, I didn't realize that the expertise on Middle East policy was not only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from various agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Interestingly, the office director billet stayed vacant the whole time I was there. That vacancy and the long-term absence of real regional understanding to inform defense policymakers in the Pentagon explains a great deal about the neoconservative approach on the Middle East and the disastrous mistakes made in Washington and in Iraq in the past two years.

posted by y2karl at 10:06 PM on August 28, 2004

So, at long last, this is that "tectonic plates" story Josh Marshall was teasing us with way back when! Whew. He was right. But... given the Chalabi connection and ancillary data involved, I can't help wondering if Josh still has more info about Yellowcake that hasn't come out yet.
posted by soyjoy at 10:56 PM on August 28, 2004

I'm shocked, shocked I say, that the Israelis are attempting to use the U.S. as it's bully-boy in the Middle East.
posted by moonbiter at 7:48 AM on August 29, 2004

With friends like that, who needs enemies?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 AM on August 29, 2004

Iran-Contra II?

Since one of the candidates uncovered the first Iran-Contra scandal, I imagine these people are very nervous about the prospect of his being elected. I wonder how many Republicans are still bitter with Kerry over Iran-Contra and BCCI.
posted by homunculus at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2004

An interesting sidebar from Juan Cole's take on the Franklin case:
Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on Iran

The Neoconservatives have some sort of shadowy relationship with the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization or MEK. Presumably its leaders have secretly promised to recognize Israel if they ever succeed in overthrowing the ayatollahs in Iran. When the US recently categorized the MEK as a terrorist organization, there were howls of outrage from "scholars" associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a wing of AIPAC), such as ex-Trotskyite Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes. MEK is a terrorist organization by any definition of the term, having blown up innocent people in the course of its struggle against the Khomeini government. (MEK is a cult-like mixture of Marx and Islam). The MEK had allied with Saddam, who gave them bases in Iraq from which to hit Iran. When the US overthrew Saddam, it raised the question of what to do with the MEK. The pro-Likud faction in the Pentagon wanted to go on developing their relationship with the MEK and using it against Tehran.

So it transpires that the Iranians were willing to give up 5 key al-Qaeda operatives, whom they had captured, in return for MEK members.

Franklin, Rhode and Ledeen conspired with Ghorbanifar and SISMI to stop that trade. It would have led to better US-Iran relations, which they wanted to forestall, and it would have damaged their proteges, the MEK.

Since high al-Qaeda operatives like Saif al-Adil and possibly even Saad Bin Laden might know about future operations, or the whereabouts of Bin Laden, for Franklin and Rhode to stop the trade grossly endangered the United States.

posted by y2karl at 11:30 AM on August 29, 2004

get this: CSpan said they'll be covering a WELCOME GOP party at Chelsea Pier, sponsored by AIPAC, with Bloomberg and Pataki speaking--how fitting.

and AIPAC has a statement on all this at their site.
posted by amberglow at 1:39 PM on August 29, 2004

One former State Department officer recalled being told that U.S. government experts considered the countries whose spying most threatened the United States were Russia, South Korea and Israel...

South Korea?
posted by euphorb at 2:15 PM on August 29, 2004

So, at long last, this is that "tectonic plates" story Josh Marshall was teasing us with way back when!

No, I think this is only part of it. I think the "plates" will move when JMM and L. Rozen publish their story about how this whole cast of characters (OSP, SIMSI, Leeden, etc.) forged the "yellowcake" documents that ended up as a reference in Bush's SOTU speech.

Something made Bush & Co. expressly disavow the yellowcake story on July 9 last year. The disavowal was very embarrassing at the time, and not something Bush would do voluntarily. Even with all the push-back from Joe Wilson, the Bushies could have successfully staged their usual "the evidence is conflicting, we just can't say for sure this didn't happen" dance if they chose to do so (see, e.g., Cheney: "we can't say for sure that Saddam was not helping Osama"). But, instead of playing coy, they cut and run. I've always thought this was a particularly weird move from an administration that never admits a mistake.

Maybe, though, they had no choice, because they figured out that their own pentagon appointees had forged the uranium docs.

Tectonic plates indeed.
posted by Mid at 2:35 PM on August 29, 2004

(But, then, why haven't they canned D. Feith et al.? Because they never can anybody?)
posted by Mid at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2004

So we have this, the Valerie Plame thing, the Al Qaeda guy outed during the last terror warning, Chalabi's double-agent stuff....They're really on a roll.
posted by amberglow at 2:55 PM on August 29, 2004

Background on the New Zealand passport thingy... (via Russell Brown's Hard News.)
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:02 PM on August 29, 2004

« Older Former Texas Lt. Gov. says he helped Bush dodge...   |   Ice, ice, baby! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments