- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

A veteran Pentagon analyst was arrested yesterday by the FBI on charges of illegally disclosing classified information — nearly two years after he first was identified as having passed national security documents involving Iran to a pro-Israeli lobbying group.

Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, of Kearneysville, W.Va., surrendered to agents at the FBI’s Washington field office after the government filed a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Alexandria accusing him of handing over classified national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it.

Mr. Franklin is charged with disclosing information about potential attacks on U.S. forces by Iranian-backed insurgents in Iraq.

During a brief court appearance yesterday, Mr. Franklin was released on $100,000 bond after being ordered to surrender his firearms and passport. A preliminary hearing was set for May 27. His attorney, John Richards, said he expects his client will plead not guilty.

Mr. Franklin, who has been employed by the Defense Department since 1979 and had held a “top secret” security clearance, has been under investigation by the FBI for more than three years and was first accused of handing over classified Defense Department documents on Iran to officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which were then passed to Israel.

Law-enforcement authorities said the initial investigation had been compromised by press leaks, but was continued at the behest of U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty in Virginia.

The FBI began surveillance of Mr. Franklin, who specialized in Iranian affairs within the policy branch of the Office of the Secretary of Defense under Donald H. Rumsfeld, more than two years ago. The probe also focused on AIPAC officials Steven Rosen, the group’s foreign policy director, and Keith Weissman, an analyst specializing on Iran.

The surveillance also is thought to have targeted Naor Gilon, a political adviser at the Israeli Embassy in the District. On one occasion, law-enforcement authorities said Mr. Gilon was observed having lunch with an AIPAC official and then were joined by Mr. Franklin.

Last year, FBI agents also copied Mr. Rosen’s computer hard drive at his AIPAC office after interviews with him and Mr. Weissman.

AIPAC and the Israeli Embassy have denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman have left the organization.

If convicted, Mr. Franklin — an Air Force Reserve colonel — faces 10 years in prison. He continues to work at the Pentagon but his top secret security clearance was suspended in June 2004.

The new criminal complaint, which does not charge Mr. Franklin with espionage, was filed Tuesday and unsealed yesterday. It includes an affidavit in which FBI agent Catherine M. Hanna said Mr. Franklin gave a classified document on potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq to two unidentified persons whom he met for lunch June 26, 2003, at an Arlington restaurant.

The affidavit said the document — designated as “top secret” — “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

The FBI agent, a counterespionage specialist, said that the two unidentified persons, named in the affidavit only as “USPER1” and USPER2,” did not have the security clearances required to receive the Defense Department document and that Mr. Franklin told them it was “highly classified” and asked them not to “use it.”

In June 2004, during a search of Mr. Franklin’s Pentagon office, agents found a copy of the June 2003 classified document he reportedly handed over, according to the complaint. It also said Mr. Franklin disclosed, without authorization, classified U.S. government information to an unidentified foreign official and to members of the press on other occasions.

The affidavit said that during a June 30, 2004, voluntary interview with FBI agents, Mr. Franklin admitted giving the classified document to the two unidentified persons with whom he had lunch.

According to the Hanna affidavit, 83 separate classified U.S. government documents also were found during a search of Mr. Franklin’s West Virginia home conducted in June 2004. The dates of those documents spanned three decades and, at no time, was Mr. Franklin’s house an authorized location for the storage of classified U.S. government documents, the complaint said.

AIPAC, founded in the 1950s, states on its Web site that its missions include “stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism and achieving peace.” With 65,000 members, it is considered the most important organization affecting the U.S. relationship with Israel — helping to pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives and procuring nearly $3 billion in aid critical to Israel’s security.

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