Friday, January 20, 2006

A veteran Pentagon analyst who admitted using his Defense Department position to illegally disclose classified information to officials of an influential pro-Israeli lobbying group was sentenced yesterday in federal court to 121/2 years in prison.

Lawrence A. Franklin, 59, was named in a six-count grand jury indictment handed up in May in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. He was accused of disclosing the information to two officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He pleaded guilty to the charges in October.

The sentence was ordered by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who also imposed a $10,000 fine. Prosecutors said they could request a reduction in Franklin’s prison term in return for his ongoing cooperation in the government’s investigation.

Judge Ellis sentenced Franklin to 10 years for conspiracy to communicate national defense information and 10 years for conspiracy to pass it to an agent of a foreign government, to be served concurrently. He added 31 months for the unlawful retention of classified documents.

The 20-page indictment said Franklin, of Kearneysville, W.Va., arranged for and set the agendas for meetings with those to whom he relayed the data and acted on requests for more information. The government said the disclosed information could have been used “to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

The indictment also said Franklin met with a foreign government agent near the Israeli Embassy in Washington in January 2003 and discussed “a Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.” The indictment did not identify the agent, although he is thought to be Naor Gilon, political adviser at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

The two AIPAC officials also charged in the case are Steven J. Rosen, 63, of Silver Spring, former director of foreign policy issues for the organization, and Keith Weissman, 53, of Bethesda, former senior Iran analyst at AIPAC.

The indictment outlines an extensive FBI undercover investigation dating to 1999, when conversations between Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman with officials from foreign countries and others were monitored. It said the AIPAC officials illegally disclosed information from classified reports, including data on terrorist activities in Central Asia, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, U.S. strategy options in the Middle East and al Qaeda terrorists.

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman have vigorously denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty in the case. They are scheduled for trial in April. AIPAC and the Israeli Embassy have denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman have left the organization.

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