Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz said Thursday that Israel had not 'activated' US defense official Lawrence Franklin.
"Israel is not spying in the United States or against the United States," Steinitz told Army Radio. "The conviction doesn't accuse Israel of activating Franklin or tempting him."
Israelis should not be expected to distinguish what US defense officials have the authority to tell them, and what they do not, Steinitz said.
Former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin admitted in court Wednesday he passed classified information to Israeli diplomat Naor Gilon and to two former AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.
Franklin agreed in court to testify against the two AIPAC officials and to prove that he had indeed passed classified information on to them, and had told them clearly this information was classified.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. responded to Franklin's allegations, saying that Galon acted professionally, and that meetings of this sort were a matter of routine.
An embassy statement, as reported by Israel Radio, said that it's diplomatic work would continue as normal, and that Israel had nothing to worry about because nothing was done illegally or out of the ordinary.
This was the first time that Israel was explicitly mentioned in the courtroom and that Gilon's name was disclosed. When asked by Judge T.S. Ellis whether he communicated classified information to a foreign official, Franklin replied: "I met occasionally with Naor Gilon from the Israeli embassy."
Adding that he had "assumed the Israeli government has already possessed" the information that Franklin gave Gilon, Franklin told the court that his impression was that Gilon gave him more information than he, Franklin, gave the Israeli official.
When asked to characterize his contact with Rosen and Weissman, Franklin said that he talked to them about his "frustration with a particular policy" and said that he had hoped that the two AIPAC officials would convey his views to senior officials in the National Security Council with whom they had good ties. "I asked them to use this information and to get it back channeled to the NSC," he said.
Franklin also pleaded guilty to the third charge of holding classified defense documents at his home in West Virginia without being authorized to do so.
The prosecutors did not say what prison term they will be asking for and the sentencing hearing was scheduled for January 20, 2006.
As part of his plea agreement with the prosecution Franklin will be allowed to serve his term at a minimum security detention camp and will also be allowed to keep part of his federal pension, which is assigned to his wife.
The indictment speaks of information garnered from two US government officials and relayed to three foreign officials, understood to be senior Israeli Embassy staffers.
JTA reported that one of the US government officials is David Satterfield, then deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and now the No. 2 man at the US Embassy in Baghdad. The other is Kenneth Pollack, a Clinton-era National Security Council staffer and now an analyst at the Brookings Institution.
One of the Israelis is Gilon, who until this summer was the chief political officer at the embassy.
The indictment lists charges involving incidents dating back to 1999, and is related to information on Iran and terrorist attacks in Central Asia and Saudi Arabia. For a period in 2004, Franklin worked covertly with the government and relayed allegedly classified information to Rosen and Weissman.
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Steve Gure, Coconut Creek, Fl:
The FBI conducted a disgraceful attempt to entrap the AIPAC organization who shamefully caved in without discovering all the facts. Just to know that they were being investigated was enough for them to fire two loyal long-term employees in the belief that it would minimize the damage. I am very disappointed in AIPAC but not at all surprised by the FBI.
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