Ex-US analyst pleads guilty in Israel-linked case
Washington Post/Reuters - October 5, 2005
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - A former Pentagon analyst pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring to divulge U.S. defense information to two pro-Israel lobbyists and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Lawrence Franklin, who previously worked as an analyst in the office of the secretary of defense, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to communicate classified information to an Israeli embassy official and illegally possessing classified documents at his West Virginia home.
As part of the plea deal, Franklin agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, which could include testifying against the two remaining defendants in the case, two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.
The two former AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to communicate national defense information provided by Franklin. The trial is scheduled to begin on January 3, 2006.
Franklin, 58, could face as much as 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to the three separate counts, but he most likely will get far less because of his cooperation. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis set sentencing for January 20.
Under the plea deal, government prosecutors agreed to support Franklin's request to serve his prison time at a minimum security facility in Cumberland, Maryland, about 130 miles west of Washington.
AT LEAST NINE MEETINGS
Franklin told the court hearing that he disclosed the national defense information to the two AIPAC officials from early in 2002 through June 2004.
Franklin said he met with the political officer from the Israeli embassy at least nine times from August 2002 through June of last year and admitted he gave the officer classified information that he was unauthorized to receive.
But Franklin said he assumed the Israeli government already had the information. "I knew in my heart his government had this information," he said. "He gave me far more information that I gave him."
Franklin, who said he now works as a waiter, bartender and valet and teaches a course on terrorism at a West Virginia university, told the judge he never intended to harm the United States.
Rosen and Weissman are accused of disclosing the classified information from Franklin to some members of the media, a senior fellow at a Washington think tank and at least three foreign government officials.
Rosen's attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that Franklin's plea was no surprise given the pressure he was under. "It has no impact on our case because a government employee's actions in dealing with classified information is simply not the same as a private person, whether that person is a reporter or a lobbyist," Lowell said.
At the hearing, prosecutors said that at one meeting in 2003 Franklin discussed with Rosen the prospects for Franklin getting a staff job on the White House's National Security Council.
Franklin asked Rosen to put in a good word, and Rosen replied, "I'll do what I can," according to the prosecutors.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop three other similar charges against Franklin.
AIPAC fired Rosen and Weissman in April, after the lobbying group had initially defended them.
See Also: The Franklin/AIPAC Spy Case Page