U.S. Presses Israel in Probe of Pentagon Analyst
Reuters - July 28, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. investigators want Israeli diplomats to tell them about any contact they had with a U.S. analyst charged with disclosing classified data, a diplomatic source close to the probe said on Thursday.
The U.S. government recently contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington to request information about any meetings between embassy diplomats and the Defense Department analyst, Lawrence Franklin.
Franklin worked on the Iran desk within the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the time the government says he disclosed to an unidentified foreign diplomat classified information about a Middle Eastern country's activities in Iraq.
"There has been initial contact that they (the U.S. government) initiated," said an Israeli diplomatic source. "It's very preliminary."
U.S. investigators could seek to question the Israeli diplomats in writing or in person. The Israeli Embassy declined to comment on the investigation.
Last month, after Franklin was charged with disclosing the classified information, the Israeli Embassy in Washington defended its conduct.
"Our diplomats conduct themselves in full accordance with established diplomatic practice and did not do anything that would contravene these standards," embassy spokesman David Siegel said at the time.
For months, embassy officials said they had not been contacted by U.S. authorities about the Franklin investigation.
Franklin was arrested in May.
A six-count indictment charged him with conspiracy to share classified information with people not authorized to receive it. Though the individuals were not named in the court documents, federal law enforcement officials said they were two senior employees of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying group.
One charge specified that Franklin disclosed information to an agent of a foreign government. The indictment did not identify the diplomat or his nationality, but sources familiar with the investigation have said he was Israeli.
Franklin has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial date was set for Sept. 6. He faces a maximum sentence of 55 years if convicted of all counts.
See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page