The past couple of weeks have seen a swirl of anonymous allegations of supposed spying and espionage, including implications that the Pentagon civilian staff might be teeming with double agents for the Jewish state.
Almost none of it is true.
Beyond mishandling of classified documents — not an inconsequential offense, to be sure — every other accusation leveled by unnamed State Department and intelligence officials appears to be part of a carefully calculated campaign to question the loyalty of several Pentagon civilian employees by name, as well as a much larger group by implication.
According to someone with intimate knowledge of the draft presidential directive that low-level Pentagon Iran analyst Larry Franklin allegedly leaked to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the document contained no sources and no methods. It had no sensitive material of any kind. It was nothing more than a policy paper — just a few pages that resembled an op-ed — advocating tougher diplomacy, not war, in dealing with Iran.
Why was it marked “secret?” Nearly every document emerging out of that Pentagon office was stamped secret — the lowest grade of secrecy. A memo about an office Christmas party would probably be classified secret.
If guilty, Mr. Franklin should be appropriately punished. But what about others who are inexplicably being lumped into the same smear campaign?
Bandying about words like “espionage” and “spying,” as many news outlets have, serves the goals of the State Department and the CIA, the mortal policy enemies of the hawks at the Pentagon. But unlike previous leak campaigns, State and CIA’s latest efforts may have crossed into dangerous territory.
Most politically appointed administration officials on the foreign-policy team who support President Bush’s agenda seem to have at least an uneasy feeling that the anonymous smear campaign flirts dangerously close to classic anti-Semitic libels.
Others are of decidedly less mixed opinion. Says one official, “It is not a witch hunt; it is a pogrom.”
Looking at the media coverage, particularly that of The Washington Post, and the reported conduct of the investigation, it is not difficult to understand the officials’ concern.
Though Mr. Franklin is Catholic, few articles mention that he is not Jewish, and none from The Post do so. He is far down the food chain, yet almost every story identifies him as an employee of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, who is Jewish, even though the undersecretary for policy is some six levels removed and oversees over 1,000 subordinates.
Tarring specific so-called neoconservatives, a Sept. 4 story in The Post with no other clear purpose identified by name five other Pentagon officials about whom “investigators have asked questions.” All five individuals are Jewish, and according to the piece “have strong ties to Israel.”
Driving home the smear, the story informs readers that three of them “were co-authors of a 1996 policy paper for then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.” The paper in question, however, was neither commissioned nor funded by Netanyahu or the Israeli government. It was unsolicited advice, no different than the papers and op-eds written by thousands of Washington policy wonks attempting to persuade various individuals or entities, including foreign leaders or governments.
The reported track record of the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence David Szady, is also troubling. Szady has for years “led investigations into Jewish American CIA employees believed to be spying for Israel that have also failed to persuade the Justice Department even to investigate the cases,” reports Eli Lake of the New York Sun.
That’s not all. Stephen Green, who reportedly was interviewed by the FBI for four hours relating to this case (the FBI refused comment), is a freelance writer on a two-decade-long quest to prove that Paul Wolfowitz, Mr. Feith and other Jews are actually embedded Israeli spies. Some 20 years of futility later, Mr. Green is suddenly all the rage with leftist blogs and “news” sites, as well as (frighteningly) some mainstream news outlets.
Until his newfound popularity on the left and in the Arab press, Mr. Green’s staunchest support had come from the Institute of Historical Review (IHR), which is perhaps best known for its denial of the Holocaust. Mr. Green’s two books that purport to document Israel’s vast network of Jewish spies working in the U.S. government have received rave reviews from the Holocaust-deniers. And now Mr. Green is being utilized by the FBI.
For those curious about the origins of this seemingly sprawling investigation, a quote in the Sept. 4 Post story seems particularly revealing: “The initial interest was: Do you believe certain people would spy for Israel and pass secret information?” This was attributed to “one source interviewed by the FBI about the defense officials.”
In other words, it appears that this investigation started without a scintilla of evidence, and it was sparked solely because of “beliefs.”
Two days earlier, the Post reported that this investigation is “more than two years old.” Yet in those two years, The Post reported Sept. 4, all investigators have on the five named Jews in the Pentagon are “suspicions,” which the Post also noted may not even be “specific.”
What those five officials have (courtesy of the Post), however, is a taint that will not soon disappear, regardless of their actual innocence.
Joel Mowbray occasionally writes for The Washington Times.