Saturday, September 04, 2004

Haaretz - AIPAC/Franklin Syp Ring Probe Widens

Haaretz - Israel News: "Report: FBI targeting AIPAC members in probe

By Nathan Guttman



NEW YORK - Members of America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been the target of a broad investigation conducted by the FBI, according to a report published yesterday.

The Washington Post wrote that the probe of Larry Franklin, the Pentagon aide suspected by the FBI of passing classified information to Israel, is just one aspect of an overall investigation and includes members of the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

The FBI has been reluctant to release details on the Franklin case.

Quoting sources familiar with the investigation, the report said the FBI has been running a counter-espionage operation for the past two years against AIPAC members suspected of passing classified information to Israel.

Contrary to a criminal investigation, in which evidence is collected to prepare an indictment, a counter-espionage probe is described as an effort to prevent espionage from being carried out.

According to the report, the FBI suspects that some of the classified information passed to Israel by AIPAC members came from the National Security Agency, the largest and one of the most secretive U.S. intelligence organizations. The NSA is responsible for eavesdroping and electronic intelligence against strategic targets that interest the United States.

The investigation had been reported to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, according to the report.

Sources close to the probe told the newspaper that the Franklin affair arose only in the past two months as part of a broader investigation against AIPAC and included wiretapping and surveillance.

Franklin is suspected of passing classified documents on discussions formulating U.S. policy on Iran to AIPAC members.

The report supports the theory raised by Jewish-Americans and Israelis in Washington last week that previously reported FBI surveillance following a meeting between Naor Gilon of Israel's embassy in Washington with AIPAC's Steve Rosen targeted Rosen, not Gilon.

According to yesterday's report, the FBI has interviewed over the past few days AIPAC officials other than the two mentioned in the Franklin affair, Rosen and Keith Weisman.

AIPAC is making a major effort to avoid responding directly to the allegations and to preserve its position as one of the country's leading political lobbying groups.

This past week, AIPAC held no less than 17 events for those participating in the Republican National Convention in New York. The events reportedly were fully attended, suggesting there is no overt effort being made to avoid the interest group.

AIPAC leadership has managed to rally statements of support from leading members of both parties since the affair broke, and Democratic and Republican senators have been unequivocal in declaring the lobby group's patriotism.

The former leader of the Republican party in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, went so far as to assert that the investigation was part of a smear campaign against AIPAC.

AIPAC also has managed to rally the Jewish-American community, which at first was hesitant to respond to the affair. At a conference of community leaders earlier this week, no one raised questions about the lobby group's activities and no explanations were sought in the Franklin affair. "

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