A long-running FBI espionage probe of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington appears to have been motivated in part by anti-Semitism, says a former Pentagon official who revealed this week he had cooperated for 10 weeks with federal agents conducting the probe.
Larry Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst who pleaded guilty in 2005 to revealing classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), made the charge in an interview with The Washington Times, his first conversation with an American newspaper since his arrest five years ago.
Franklin said in that interview that he became disturbed by several apparently anti-Semitic remarks by his FBI handlers. His cooperation with the agency, which involved taping his conversations with officials of AIPAC and the Israeli Embassy, was first reported by the Times on Wednesday.
“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?’ And I proceeded to tell him that Christ and all the Apostles and even his mom were Jewish,” Franklin said in the interview.
“So it was that sort of thing. And just sarcastic turns of the phrase from time to time. You know, I felt dirty sometimes,” he said.
FBI Assistant Director John Miller declined to address the charges of anti-Semitism.
“We have no way to respond to thirdhand characterizations of partial statements allegedly made by unnamed FBI employees several years ago,” Mr. Miller said. “If Mr. Franklin would like to make a formal complaint about the conduct of any FBI employee, there is a process to do.”
Franklin, a prominent Iran analyst with the Defense Department before his arrest, said he did not want to tarnish the FBI, and noted that he had come to know many valorous FBI agents in the process of working with the agency on Iran issues and other matters.
“But that [anti-Semitism] dimension was part of this investigation and may have been an initial incitement of this investigation,” he said.
During the AIPAC probe, Franklin said, FBI agents whom he declined to identify by name “asked me about every Jew I knew in [the office of the secretary of defense]. There was an element of that.”
Several Jews held prominent positions in the department at the time, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
Both were associated with the “neoconservative” faction in the Bush administration that supported close U.S. ties with Israel and was accused by critics of having exercised undue influence on President Bush and his top aides leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Franklin said he is a “practicing Catholic” and opposes prejudice. “I guess I embraced Pope John Paul II’s view that the Jewish people are our elder brothers, and there was never any prejudice in my family and should not be in my faith,” he said.
The FBI investigation targeted AIPAC lobbyists Steven B. Rosen and Keith Weissman as well Naor Gilon, an official at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Franklin said he wore a portable recording device during meetings with two of the officials during a 10-week period in 2004.View Entire Story
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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