FBI Stings Seen as Part of Policy ‘War’


 

Last June, leading neoconservative Richard Perle received an unexpected phone call at his home. It was Larry Franklin calling. Franklin is the veteran Iran specialist in the Pentagon’s Near East South Asia office and the key Iraq War planner who had been pressured by the FBI into launching a series of counterintelligence stings. Perle, a former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, was an architect of the 2003 Iraq War.

Franklin, who never had phoned before, asked Perle to “convey a message to Chalabi” in Iraq, according to sources aware of the call. Ahmad Chalabi is the embattled president of the Iraqi National Congress. He is currently at the vortex of a Pentagon-intelligence community conflict over pre- and post-war policy, but is still endorsed by neoconservatives, such as Perle.

Something about Franklin’s unexpected call struck Perle as “weird,” according to the sources. Why was Franklin calling?

In the recent past, Perle had only encountered Franklin a few times in passing, the sources said. Perle became “impatient” to end his brief conversation with Franklin, and finally just declined to pass a message to Chalabi or to cooperate in any way, according to the sources.

Perle refused to comment.

While the purpose of the mysterious call to Perle is still unclear, a source with knowledge of Franklin’s calls suggested that Franklin might have been trying to warn Perle and Chalabi that conflict between the counterintelligence community and the neoconservatives and the Chalabi camp was spinning out of control.

Unbeknownst to Franklin, the FBI was listening.

By the time Franklin phoned Perle, Franklin had been under surveillance for at least a year by the FBI’s counterintelligence division, which is led by controversial counterintelligence chief David Szady. Franklin had been monitored since a meeting June 26, 2003, at the Tivoli Restaurant in Virginia, where he discussed a classified Iran policy document with officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

He also was monitored late last May while responding to a routine media inquiry by CBS reporters about Iran’s intelligence activities in Iraq, according to multiple sources. The CBS call was pivotal.

Among the reporters who spoke to Franklin in late May, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the call, was former CIA attorney Adam Ciralsky, who had joined CBS as a reporter. During that call, Franklin purportedly revealed classified information, according to the sources.

In late June, Szady’s FBI counterintelligence division finally confronted a shocked Franklin with evidence of his monitored calls. The bureau arranged for Franklin to be placed on administrative leave without pay, and then threatened him with years of imprisonment unless Franklin engaged in a series of stings against a list of prominent Washington targets, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the FBI’s actions in the case.

Terrified, needing to provide for a wheelchair-bound wife and five children and without the benefit of legal representation, Franklin agreed to ensnare the individuals on the FBI sting list, the sources said. The list might include as many as six names, according to sources.

In a special Jewish Telegraphic Agency investigation, this reporter first revealed Franklin’s stings and the circumstances surrounding them.

AIPAC was stung July 21. That day, Franklin met an AIPAC official in a Virginia mall and urged that information be passed to Israel that Israelis operating in northern Kurdistan were in danger of being kidnapped and killed by Iranian intelligence, according to multiple sources. That information — the validity of which has been questioned — was reportedly passed to the Israeli Embassy, thereby providing the FBI with a basis for search warrants and threats of an espionage prosecution against AIPAC Policy Director Steve Rosen and AIPAC Iran specialist Keith Weissman, according to the sources.

AIPAC officials contacted declined to comment.

Attorneys familiar with FBI security prosecutions identified Section 794 and 798 of the Espionage Act as ideally suited to the FBI’s sting strategy. Section 798, titled, “Disclosure of Classified Information,” applies to “whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes [or] transmits — for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information — concerning the communication of intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government.” The sweeping statute would cover classified information not only about America but also about Iran and Iraq.

Reporter Janine Zacharia first revealed initial news of the July AIPAC sting in The Jerusalem Post.

After the AIPAC sting on or about Aug. 20, Franklin — still without legal representation — was directed by his FBI handlers to launch a sting against Chalabi’s Washington-based political adviser, Francis Brooke, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of Franklin’s stings.

At the time, Washington intelligence circles were accusing Chalabi of passing sensitive American intelligence code-breaking information to Iranian intelligence. The charges against Chalabi have since fallen from view.

Brooke, a southerner who lives in a Washington-area home owned by Chalabi, took the August call from Franklin on the kitchen phone.

“Franklin called,” Brooke related, “and said, ‘You have a real problem on your hands with Iran and Chalabi.’ I told him, ‘It is all horse—-.’ Larry got very angry at me. He said it was ‘deadly serious.’ I said, ‘What the hell, if you say it is serious, OK. But we have no information about American code-breaking of Iranian intelligence.'”

“So Larry says, ‘I am talking to a bunch of media people, and I can spin this — but you need to level with me to get this straight,'” Brooke recalled. “This was not very much like Larry, and I just said, ‘There is nothing to spin.'”

Brooke dismissed the entire effort as part of a “vendetta against Chalabi organized by [then-CIA Director George] Tenet and others at the CIA.”

Franklin refused to comment.

In August, Franklin, still without legal counsel, was also directed by the FBI to call Ciralsky, who by this time had moved from CBS to NBC, where he was working on security developments in Iran, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of Franklin’s calls. Franklin tried to set up a meeting with Ciralsky, but no such meeting ever occurred, according to sources familiar with the call, because shortly thereafter, on Aug. 27, the FBI’s AIPAC raids were leaked to CBS. Franklin actions were now public.

Before joining CBS, reporter Ciralsky was working as an attorney for the CIA but was allegedly forced out in 1999 during the course of an inquiry into his family background and his Jewish affiliations. Ciralsky later filed a harassment lawsuit against the CIA that is still pending.

The man who supervised much of the CIA investigation of Ciralsky and then the FBI’s investigation of Franklin following the May conversation with Ciralsky was Szady. In a JTA investigation, this reporter revealed exclusively his involvement with Ciralsky.

Critics of the current investigation point to Szady’s involvement in the probe of Ciralsky a decade ago to raise questions about a possibly larger agenda. One question involves the media.

Because Ciralsky is a reporter with NBC, some critics raised the specter of Szady’s FBI counterintelligence division consciously trying to entrap a member of the media engaged in routinely contacting sources. One source with direct knowledge of Franklin’s stings said it amounted to an “enemies list.”

Ciralsky refused to comment.

FBI officials repeatedly refused to discuss the Franklin stings. The bureau also refused to respond to questions about whether members of the media — including those at CBS, NBC and even this reporter — are under surveillance as part of their investigation. But at one point, a senior FBI official with knowledge of the case finally stated, “I cannot confirm or deny that information [due to] the pending investigation.”

Some Washington insiders believe that the FBI’s multiple stings are far from routine counterintelligence but represent a “war” between the counterintelligence community and policymakers, especially neocons.

One key insider explained the war this way: “It is two diametrically opposed ways of thinking. The neocons have an interventionist mindset willing to ally with anyone to defeat world terrorism, and they see the intelligence community as too passive. The intelligence community sees the neocons as wild men willing to champion any foreign source — no matter how specious — if it suits their ideology.”

Leading neoconservative figure Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute added his own thought.

“This is a war of the intelligence community vs. the neoconservatives,” Rubin observed. “It involves both the right and the left of the intelligence community. It is a war about policy, the point being, the CIA must not be involved in policy. The CIA’s role is to provide intelligence and let the policymakers decide what to do with it, and it appears they are not sticking to that role — and that is a dangerous situation.”

“This is the politicizing of intelligence,” he continued. “But the CIA, by its establishing principles, is not to be involved in politics.”

Rubin added that the sting effort “against AIPAC is the culmination of a 20-year witch-hunt from a small corps within the counterintelligence community” that Rubin labeled “conspiracy theorists.” He added, “What is the common denominator between the Ciralsky case and the AIPAC case? David Szady.”

Szady, who has been decorated twice by the CIA for distinguished service, answered one critic, writing, “I am not at liberty to comment on pending investigations.” Szady had issued a statement to this reporter earlier that he “has no anti-Semitic views, has never handled a case or investigation based upon an individual’s ethnicity or religious views and would never do so.”

One neoconservative at the center of the counterintelligence war said: “This is just the beginning. Nobody knows where this war is going.”

Edwin Black is the author of “IBM and the Holocaust” (Crown, 2001). Black’s current best seller is “Banking on Baghdad” (Wiley), which chronicles 7,000 years of Iraqi history. This article first appeared in the Forward.

 

Arab, Muslim Leaders Want Linkage


A parade of Arab and Muslim leaders is passing through Washington, promising support for the U.S.-led effort against terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden — but also urging the administration to press harder for a cease-fire and new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

This week there were strong indications administration policymakers are headed in just that direction, although exactly how far they are prepared to go is far from clear.

On Tuesday President George W. Bush, breaking with the policies of his Republican predecessors but echoing former President Bill Clinton, endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state.

"The idea of a Palestinian state has always been a part of a vision, so long as the right of Israel to exist is respected," he told reporters. "We are working diligently with both sides to encourage a reduction of violence so that meaningful discussions can take place.”

That came a day after reports that the administration was preparing a major new Israeli-Palestinian initiative in the days before the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, but that it was put on hold in the wake of the terrorism crisis.

Washington insiders say the administration has still not decided whether to revive that plan and exactly what its details might be. State Department sources emphasized that the debate over the level and direction of U.S. involvement in negotiations is continuing.

And they said that any meeting between Bush and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, one element of the reported initiative, depends on a significant reduction in violence — something that seemed even unlikelier after a Palestinian raid on a Jewish settlement in Gaza and Israel’s seizure of Palestinian-controlled land as a security buffer.

Pro-Israel leaders were quick to criticize the President’s nod to Palestinian statehood.

In a statement, leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said that supporters of a new initiative that includes a Bush-Arafat meeting are “undermining America’s war against terrorism. They are encouraging the President to reward, rather than punish those that harbor and support terrorism.”

But the administration faces mounting pressure from the Arab and Moslem nations.

Last week Jordan’s King Abdullah ll was in town for the official signing of a new U.S.-Jordan free trade pact and to offer a combination of support and advice for the U.S. anti-terror effort.

“We’re here to give our full, unequivocal support to you and to the people of America,” the monarch said. “And we will stand by you in these very difficult times.” Washington sources say Jordan has already started sharing intelligence with U.S. officials on terror groups and their worldwide connections.

But Abdullah also told State Department officials that there is a direct connection between the extent of Jordan’s cooperation and the continuation of U.S. efforts to bring about a lasting Israeli-Palestinian cease fire. Unless Washington pushes hard for new negotiations, he warned, it will be more difficult to bring Arab and Moslem nations into the anti-terror coalition.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, stressing strong Jordanian support for the U.S. effort, conceded that the administration recognizes “what the King and others have told us, that (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) has a bearing on…how we go forward with the problem of terrorism.”

A similar message — made more urgent by the crumpling of the latest cease fire — came from visiting Turkish, Qatar, Saudi and Egyptian delegations.

Most observers say the administration, while increasing the pressure on both sides to end the violence, is not tilting against Israel in the interests of its anti-terror coalition.

“They are making it clear they won’t let Egypt or the others dictate the terms of their participation,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza, he said, have indicated that the administration is pursuing a number of different coalitions, not a single overarching one. “Missions will define the coalitions,” he said, “and not coalitions defining the mission.”

He said that ultimately, the U.S. effort could be good for Israel.

“If the U.S. really reshuffles the deck regionally in a way that radicalism is routed — like it was in 1991 — then it really might open up some important opportunities,” he said.

But he warned that fluid events and surging emotions among the American people make predictions risky.

“What happens in step two will depend very much on how step one goes,” he said. “This is just the first act in the opera.”

Anti-Terror Legislation on

Slow Side of Fast Track

Congress and the Bush administration are moving quickly toward passage of legislation that would give law enforcement agencies new tools to fight domestic terrorism.

Attorney General John Ashcroft spent the weekend warning of new attacks, and arguing that the new powers are needed to thwart them. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are choking on some of the administration’s proposals, as they have done during past terrorism scares.

The result: compromise language in both Houses that may ease civil liberties concerns without gutting the Justice Department proposals for expanded powers.

In a House compromise worked out early this week, Ashcroft will get an end to the statute of limitations for some terrorist offenses, and there will be language increasing the penalties for aiding or advising terrorists.

The government will get some new wiretap authority, but with more restrictions; the power to detain undocumented immigrants suspected of terror connections will be expanded, but it will not be unlimited. And many provisions of the new law may "sunset" after several years, presumably after the current emergency is over.

That still may not be enough to satisfy a coalition of civil rights, right wing and pro-gun groups, which fear the expansion of government authority.

Jewish groups, traditional allies of the civil liberties groups that have spearheaded the opposition, continue to play a wait-and-see game, with most signaling they will support much of the administration’s plan.

"Everybody wants to see the details of what comes out," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), a group closely identified with civil rights causes. "As long as the bills are moving targets, Jewish groups will keep a very low profile."

While the RAC has signaled some concerns about the administration proposal to both lawmakers and administration officials, Saperstein said that the current emergency has shifted the national security-civil liberties balance for most Jewish groups, at least in the short term.

"The Jewish community wants a really effective campaign against terror," he said. "But they want it done in a way that does not encroach any more than necessary into the civil liberties of Americans."

The Jewish community’s involvement has also been limited by the succession of holidays right in the middle of the debate. The anti-terror package could clear both Houses as early as next week.

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