Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Pentagon analyst at the center of an FBI investigation involving classified information being given to Israel is a career civil servant who specialized in Iranian affairs within the policy branch of the Office of the Secretary of Defense under Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Lawrence A. Franklin, 57, is suspected of passing classified information about U.S. policy with Iran to a pro-Israel lobbying firm in the District, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which passed on the information to Israeli officials.

Mr. Franklin began his Pentagon career as a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst specializing in Soviet affairs. Sometime after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he turned his focus to the Middle East and learned Farsi, the predominant language of Iran.

A former co-worker said Mr. Franklin held strong views on the problem of Iran and was regarded as an advocate of regime change in Tehran. Another co-worker described Mr. Franklin as an Irish Catholic who, as a career official, was nonpolitical.

Mr. Franklin also was part of a special analysis unit within the Office of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy that examined classified intelligence assessments of ties between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist organization.

The Office of Special Plans, headed by William Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for special plans and Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, found more extensive connections between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda terrorists than CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Some in Congress and the administration have criticized the unit as an effort by Mr. Rumsfeld to set up a separate intelligence service in the Pentagon.

Michael Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said he worked with Mr. Franklin and described him as “a very diligent, hardworking analyst who was good with details.”

Mr. Ledeen said he was present at a meeting in 2001 in Rome with Mr. Franklin and Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian expatriate who provided information to the Pentagon.

“That meeting produced very high-quality information that we did not have, which, according to American armed forces in Afghanistan, saved American lives,” Mr. Ledeen said.

However, the CIA and State Department took steps to shut down the information channel because of distrust of Mr. Ghorbanifar, who was involved in the 1980s arms-for-hostage affair known as Iran-Contra.

Mr. Franklin, who lives in West Virginia, has been on sick leave in recent weeks and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Ledeen said he doubts that Mr. Franklin improperly passed any information to Israel.

Sensational and inaccurate press reports on Mr. Franklin are “a disgusting example of McCarthyism,” Mr. Ledeen said.

“They are destroying an excellent civil servant on the basis of zero information,” he said. “If the FBI had information, they’d be indicting him, instead of leaking it. They don’t have a case.”

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