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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A Pentagon analyst charged with providing classified information to an Israeli official and members of a pro-Israeli lobbying group planned to plead guilty to one or more charges, a court said Thursday.
Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, of Kearneysville, W.Va., was one of the Pentagon's policy experts on Iran and the Middle East. He was indicted in June on charges of disclosing national defense information to people not entitled to receive it, including two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The indictment also alleges he leaked top secret information about two unidentified Middle Eastern officials to the media.
Franklin had previously pleaded innocent, but on Thursday a change of plea hearing was added to the court calendar for next Wednesday. A statement issued by the U.S. District Court clerk's office said Franklin ''is scheduled to plead guilty to a charge or charges'' but did not specify which.
Court records include no details about Franklin's plea; such details normally are not made public until the plea is officially entered.
Four of the five counts against Franklin carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and the fifth carries a sentence of up to five years.
Prosecutors declined comment, but a Justice Department official confirmed that a plea agreement was being negotiated. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing has been filed with the court. Messages left Thursday with Franklin's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, were not immediately returned.
The two AIPAC officials who allegedly received the information, Steven Rosen of Silver Spring, Md., and Keith Weissman of Bethesda, Md., also have been charged with conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. defense information. No plea hearings are scheduled in their cases.
Franklin had been cooperating with the government in its case against Rosen and Weissman as far back as July 2004, according to the indictment. Such cooperation is typically a factor in determining what sentence prosecutors will seek in connection with a plea.
According to the indictment, Franklin met periodically with Rosen and Weissman between 2002 and 2004 and discussed classified information, including information about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Rosen and Weissman would subsequently share what they learned with reporters and Israeli officials. On at least one occasion, Franklin spoke directly to an Israeli official.
The government is not charging any of the three with espionage, although the FBI has questioned at least one Israeli official.
At night, between the first and second of the January 2001, a mysterious thief came to the embassy of Niger in Rome and into the residence of the counselor in charge. It turned out that some letterhead and seals were missing. A second dossier on Niger-Iraq trade soon came into Martino’s hands, one that included references to uranium trafficking. Martino claims he got it from embassy personnel and that he thought it was authentic.
Martino passed it on to the French secret service, who had paid for it, and also to Panorama [a magazine owned by Bush ally and Italian president Silvio Berlusconi], which assessed it by dispatching a female reporter to Niger. Panorama also turned the file over to the US Embassy in Rome for cross-checking in the US.
The female journalist soon told Martino that the trip to Niger had not produced any real confirmation, and also the French confirmed to Martino that the reports he had passed on to them were groundless. In other words, Bush’s war rationale was debunked way back in 2001 by amateur and professional sleuths.
Furthermore, it was a very amateurish forgery, not likely produced through official channels by any state intelligence agency with their vast resources. However, it was soon resuscitated as the Bush administration, in its first year, ramped up its public relations campaign for war.
ROME MEETING IN DECEMBER 2001
Michael Ledeen organized a meeting in Rome to gather evidence to support the planned war. Present were:
1. Michael Ledeen, Karl Rove’s foreign policy advisor and organizer of the meeting
2. Nicolo Pollari, head of the the Italian equivalent of the CIA, the SISMI
3. Italy’s Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino (no relation apparently to the spy Rocco Martino), Pollari’s boss
4. Larry Franklin, an American who presently is being prosecuted in the US for giving classified information to an Israeli front group, AIPC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) -- which some would call "spying," even though he has not been charged with espionage
5. Harold Rhode: member of Dick Cheney’s Office of Special Plans, protege of Ledeen, go-between with Iraqi exile and CIA asset (at the time) Ahmed Chalabi.
was one of the Pentagon's policy experts on Iran and the Middle East. He was indicted in June on charges of disclosing national defense information to people not entitled to receive it, including two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Sept. 22 - In its rush to air its now discredited story about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service, CBS bumped another sensitive piece slated for the same “60 Minutes” broadcast: a half-hour segment about how the U.S. government was snookered by forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger.
The journalistic juggling at CBS provides an ironic counterpoint to the furor over apparently bogus documents involving Bush’s National Guard service. One unexpected consequence of the network’s decision was to wipe out a chance—at least for the moment—for greater public scrutiny of a more consequential forgery that played a role in building the Bush administration’s case to invade Iraq.
A team of “60 Minutes” correspondents and consulting reporters spent more than six months investigating the Niger uranium documents fraud, CBS sources tell NEWSWEEK. The group landed the first ever on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who first obtained the phony documents, as well as her elusive source, Rocco Martino, a mysterious Roman businessman with longstanding ties to European intelligence agencies.
Although the edited piece never ended up identifying Martino by name, the story, narrated by “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley, asked tough questions about how the White House came to embrace the fraudulent documents and why administration officials chose to include a 16-word reference to the questionable uranium purchase in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech.
But just hours before the piece was set to air on the evening of Sept. 8, the reporters and producers on the CBS team were stunned to learn the story was being scrapped to make room for a seemingly sensational story about new documents showing that Bush ignored a direct order to take a flight physical while serving in the National Guard more than 30 years ago....