Sunday, May 15, 2005

Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information

From the New York Times (I'm waiting with bated breath for the New York Times story on the Blair cabinet memo that proves that Bush lied about the war in Iraq, a story to be written of course by Judith Miller):

"At one point last summer, Mr. Franklin had agreed to help the government with the investigation before ending his cooperation when it became evident that prosecutors wanted to charge him with a crime. During that time, he made several telephone calls to possible subjects in the case, including one to Mr. Weissman, according to people who have been officially briefed on the case. The call was surreptitiously monitored and recorded by F.B.I. agents.

In the conversation with Mr. Weissman, Mr. Franklin said he had learned that Iran was seeking to encourage or engage in attacks against Israelis in northern Iraq, people who have been officially briefed on the case said. They said that Mr. Weissman told Mr. Rosen of the conversation and that the two men are believed to have passed the information to an Israeli official who was an intelligence officer. It is not clear whether the information was based on actual information or was fabricated to lure the two Aipac officials into incriminating themselves."

This is pro-Israel spin, recycling the old Jerusalem Post story that all Franklin did was pass on information that was concocted as part of a sting operation by FBI anti-Semites to entrap AIPAC. The last quoted line of the New York Times story is just a paraphrase of the line in the Jerusalem Post ("It is unclear whether the 'classified' information was real or bogus."). The story doesn't make much sense on the face of it. Considering the relationship between Israel and the United States, it is impossible to believe that the United States wouldn't inform Israel that Iranian agents were going to attack Israelis in Kurdistan. If that didn't happen, you can be certain that Douglas Feith would have picked up the hotline in his office connected directly to Sharon's office and passed the information on immediately. The AIPAC dudes were smart enough to have seen right through this. The only good that came out of the entrapment story is that it forced the Israelis to admit they were operating in Kurdistan (another scoop by Seymour Hersh, and a story that was immediately and vociferously denied by Israel).

In the continuing saga of Larry Franklin, we always have to remember that Franklin was caught by accident (he wandered unexpectedly into a lunch meeting between the AIPAC dudes and Naor Gilon, a probable Mossad agent who is leaving his Washington cover posting in the Israeli embassy 'for personal reasons'). Whatever he was doing was discovered when the FBI was monitoring AIPAC for some bigger investigation that had already been going on for some time. As I have stated before, considering the huge power that AIPAC wields with both the Bush Administration and Congress, the FBI must have had extremely high-level permission to conduct this investigation. The FBI would only obtain this permission if its suspicions of AIPAC were held with a great degree of certainty and related to matters of the utmost importance regarding American intelligence and security. To put it in context, the Franklin issue is tiny compared to the greater AIPAC issue, but what Franklin allegedly did was disclose very classified information. From Newsday:

"Intelligence sources said the classification - Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information - was often used to protect information from electronic surveillance where disclosure might tip off a foreign government that its communications were being monitored."

This is an extremely high level of classification (a classification above 'Top Secret'). The Israelis would have wanted it, not for the content of the information (the focus on content is the Israeli spin), but because it would allow them to determine the American spy network in Iran, information they could have sold or traded to the Iranians (just as they traded the information obtained by Pollard to the Soviets). It is difficult to understand why Franklin would risk disclosure of this information to protect a few Israeli spies in Kurdistan, particularly when such disclosure, if caught, might result in a penalty as high as his execution. From the AIPAC point of view, however, this may have just been another part of the ongoing Israeli dissection of the complete American spy networks in the Middle East. If Israel has already traded this information away, or used it in its covert campaign in Iraq to lead to civil war, it would explain why the Americans seem completely to lack intelligence in Iran, and seem to have no effective counterintelligence operations in Iraq. If Franklin did anything wrong, we must not forget that his is a small part of the greater AIPAC espionage story.