- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who would command a U.S.-led war in Iraq, is under investigation over accusations of abuses of his office relating to his wife, defense officials said yesterday.
The Defense Department declined to give details. But officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said the Office of the Inspector General has been looking into charges that Gen. Franks allowed his wife, Cathy, to attend classified briefings, gave her a military bodyguard to which she was not entitled, and may not have properly reimbursed the government for all of her travel when she accompanied him on official trips.
The charges were not expected to derail Gen. Franks' career, and it was not clear what, if any, disciplinary action might follow, if they proved true.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a statement praising Gen. Franks' performance as a soldier and commander and pointing out his importance in the war on terror and any upcoming campaign.
"Investigations such as this are not unusual and properly are required whenever the Office of the Inspector General is made aware of an allegation," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Without commenting on the merits of the investigation, which is not yet before me, I want to emphasize that General Franks has my full trust, respect and confidence."
Some questioned the appropriateness of Mr. Rumsfeld's comments, coming in the midst of the investigation from the man who would ultimately decide if any action needed to be taken.
"It's completely inappropriate," said Charles Gittins, a lawyer who frequently represents military clients.
Referring to the accusations, he said Mrs. Franks might have attended briefings, but it's unlikely that secrets were compromised.
"But for a general officer he knows better," Mr. Gittins said of Gen. Franks.
"It's unheard of," said Eugene Fidell, a Washington expert on military issues. "Nobody thinks Mrs. Franks conveyed information to … an unfriendly government, she's not on the telephone with al Qaeda. But it's the integrity of the system, and the appearance of it is certainly disturbing because a spouse doesn't have any business" to be present at such meetings.
Gen. Franks issued a brief statement that he was cooperating with the inquiry.
"It would not be appropriate to comment on the investigation until it is complete," the statement said.
Cautioning against drawing any conclusions from the charges, one Pentagon official said it may turn out that Mrs. Franks was assigned a bodyguard on the basis of some intelligence that indicated a possible threat to the family.
Mr. Fidell said others have had their careers destroyed for lesser offenses, but also noted that Gen. Franks is a valued figure.
"It's a time when we don't need to be executing skilled generals, skilled commanders," he said. "But many people who have been penalized, reprimanded, or otherwise … because they lost a page in a classified publication, for example, will be watching this with interest and possibly" some malicious pleasure.
The 57-year-old Texas native is highly decorated for his service, including in Vietnam and the 1991 Persian Gulf war, with five Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts and two Distinguished Service Awards.
Mrs. Franks told the Tampa Tribune in November that her husband "felt it was important for me to travel with him and for people he meets always the leaders of their countries to see an American family."

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