The burgeoning scandal over claims that a Pentagon
official passed highly classified secrets to a Zionist lobby group appears to
be part of a much broader set of FBI and Pentagon investigations of close collaboration
between prominent U.S. neoconservatives and Israel dating back some 30 years.
According to knowledgeable sources, who asked to not be identified, the FBI
(Federal Bureau of Investigation) has been intensively reviewing a series of
past counter-intelligence probes that were started against several high-profile
neocons but never followed up with prosecutions, to the great frustration of
counterintelligence officers, in some cases.
Some of these past investigations involve top current officials, including
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense for Policy
Douglas Feith, whose office appears to be the focus of the most recently disclosed
inquiry; and Richard Perle, who resigned as Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman
All three were the subject of a lengthy
investigative story by Stephen Green published by Counterpunch.org in February.
Green is the author of two books on U.S.-Israeli relations, including Taking
Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, which relies
heavily on interviews with former Pentagon and counterintelligence officials.
At the same time, another Pentagon office concerned with the transfer of sensitive
military and dual-use technologies has been examining the acquisition, modification
and sales of key hi-tech military equipment by Israel obtained from the United
States, in some cases with the help of prominent neoconservatives who were then
serving in the government.
Some of that equipment has been sold by Israel – which in the last 20 years
has become a top exporter of the world's most sophisticated hi-tech information
and weapons technology – or by Israeli middlemen, to Russia, China and other
potential U.S. strategic rivals. Some of it has also found its way onto the
black market, where terrorist groups – possibly including al-Qaeda – obtained
bootlegged copies, according to these sources.
Of particular interest in that connection are derivatives of a powerful case-management
software called PROMIS that was produced by INSLAW Inc. in the early 1980s and
acquired by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, which then sold its own versions
to other foreign intelligence agencies in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern
But these versions were modified with a "trap door" that permitted
the seller to spy on the buyers' own intelligence files, according to a number
of published reports.
A modified version of the software, which is used to monitor and track files
on a multitude of databases, is believed to have been acquired by al-Qaeda on
the black market in the late 1990s, possibly facilitating the group's global
banking and money-laundering schemes, according to a Washington Times
story of June 2001.
According to one source, Pentagon investigators believe it possible that al-Qaeda
used the software to spy on various U.S. agencies that could have detected or
foiled the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.
The FBI is reportedly also involved in the Pentagon's investigation, which
is overseen by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology
Security John A. "Jack" Shaw with the explicit support of Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The latest incident is based on allegations that a Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) career officer, Larry Franklin – who was assigned in 2001 to work in
a special office dealing with Iraq and Iran under Feith – provided highly classified
information, including a draft on U.S. policy towards Iran, to two staff members
of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of Washington's
most powerful lobby groups. One or both of the recipients allegedly passed the
material to the Israeli embassy.
Franklin has not commented on the allegation, and Israel and AIPAC have strongly
denied any involvement and say they are cooperating fully with FBI investigators.
The office in which Franklin has worked since 2001 is dominated by staunch
neoconservatives, including Feith himself. Headed by William Luti, a retired
Navy officer who worked for DPB member Newt Gingrich when he was speaker of
the House of Representatives, it played a central role in building the case
for war in Iraq.
Part of the office's strategy included working closely with the Iraqi National
Congress (INC) led by now-disgraced exile Ahmed Chalabi, and the DPB members
in developing and selectively leaking intelligence analyses that supported the
now-discredited thesis that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had close
ties to al-Qaeda.
Feith's office enjoyed especially close links with Vice President Dick Cheney's
chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, to whom it "stovepiped" its analyses
without having them vetted by professional intelligence analysts in the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), the DIA, or the State Department Bureau for Intelligence
of Research (INR).
Since the Iraq war, Feith's office has also lobbied hard within the U.S. government
for a confrontational posture vis-à-vis Iran and Syria, including actions
aimed at destabilizing both governments – policies which, in addition to
the ousting of Hussein, have been strongly and publicly urged by prominent,
hard-line neoconservatives, such as Perle, Feith and Perle's associate at the
American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Michael
Ledeen, among others.
Despite his status as a career officer, Franklin, who is an Iran specialist,
is considered both personally and ideologically close to several other prominent
neoconservatives, who have also acted in various consultancy roles at the Pentagon,
including Ledeen and Harold Rhode, who once described himself as Deputy Secretary
of State Paul Wolfowitz's chief adviser on Islam.
In Dec. 2001, Rhode and Franklin met in Europe with a shadowy Iranian arms
dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who, along with Ledeen, played a central role
in the arms-for-hostages deal involving the Reagan administration, Israel and
Iran in the mid-1980s that became known as the "Iran-Contra Affair."
Ledeen set up the more recent meetings that apparently triggered the FBI to
launch its investigation, which has intensified in recent months amid reports
that Chalabi's INC, which has long been championed by the neoconservatives,
has been passing sensitive intelligence to Iran.
Feith has long been an outspoken supporter of Israel's Likud Party, and his
former law partner Marc Zell has served as a spokesman in Israel for the Jewish
settler movement on the occupied West Bank.
He, Perle and several other like-minded hardliners participated in a task force
that called for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work for the
installation of a friendly government in Baghdad as a means of permanently altering
the balance of power in the Middle East in Israel's favor, permitting it to
abandon the Oslo peace process, which Feith had publicly opposed.
Previously, Feith served as a Middle East analyst in the National Security
Council in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan (1981-89), but
was summarily removed from that position in March 1982 because he had been the
object of a FBI inquiry into whether he had provided classified material to
an official of the Israeli embassy in Washington, according to Green's account.
But Perle, who was then serving as assistant secretary of defense for international
security policy (ISP), which, among other responsibilities, had an important
say in approving or denying licenses to export sensitive military or dual-use
technology abroad, hired him as his "special counsel" and later as
his deputy, where he served until 1986, when he left for his law practice with
Zell, who had by then moved to Israel.
Also serving under Perle during these years was Stephen Bryen, a former staff
member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the subject of a major
FBI investigation in the late 1970s for offering classified documents to an
Israeli intelligence officer in the presence of AIPAC's director, according
to Green's account, which is backed up by some 500 pages of investigation documents
released under a Freedom of Information request some 15 years ago.
Although political appointees decided against prosecution, Bryen was reportedly
asked to leave the committee and, until his appointment by Perle in 1981, served
as head of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a group
dedicated to promoting strategic ties between the United States and Israel and
one in which Perle, Feith and Ledeen have long been active.
In his position as Perle's deputy, Bryen created the Defense Technology Security
Administration (DTSA) which enforced regulations regarding technology transfer
to foreign countries.
During his tenure, according to one source with personal knowledge of Bryen's
work, "the U.S. shut down transfers to western Europe and Japan [which
were depicted as too ready to sell them to Moscow] and opened up a back door
to Israel" – a pattern that became embarrassingly evident after Perle
left office and the current deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, took
over in 1987.
Soon, Armitage was raising serious questions about Bryen's approval of sensitive
exports to Israel without appropriate vetting by other agencies.
"It is in the interest of U.S. and Israel to remove needless impediments
to technological cooperation between them," Feith wrote in Commentary
in 1992. "Technologies in the hands of responsible, friendly countries
facing military threats, countries like Israel, serve to deter aggression, enhance
regional stability and promote peace thereby."
Perle, Ledeen, and Wolfowitz have also been the subject of FBI inquiries, according
to Green's account. In 1970, one year after he was hired by Senator Henry "Scoop"
Jackson, an FBI wiretap authorized for the Israeli Embassy picked up Perle discussing
classified information with an embassy official, while Wolfowitz was investigated
in 1978 for providing a classified document on the proposed sale of a U.S. weapons
system to an Arab government to an Israeli official via an AIPAC staffer.
In 1992, when he was serving as undersecretary of defense for policy, Pentagon
officials looking into the unauthorized export of classified technology to China,
found that Wolfowitz's office was promoting Israel's export of advanced air-to-air
missiles to Beijing in violation of a written agreement with Washington on arms
The FBI and the Pentagon are reportedly taking a new look at all of these incidents
and others to, in the words of a New York Times story
Sunday, "get a better understanding of the relationships among conservative
officials with strong ties to Israel."
It would be a mistake to see Franklin as the chief target of the current investigation,
according to sources, but rather he should be viewed as one piece of a much
(Inter Press Service)