FBI informant: 'Anti-Semitism was behind case'

Former AIPAC defendant Larry Franklin: These guys believe there's a Jewish cabal.

larry franklin 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
larry franklin 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
One of the former AIPAC staffers once accused of illegally sharing classified information with Israeli officials lashed out at the FBI Thursday following comments from an FBI's informant that anti-Semitism had been a motivation for the case. "Within the counter-intelligence bureaucracy of the United States government, there is a virulent ideology about Israel and Jews," Steven Rosen, one of the two former officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee charged in the case, told The Jerusalem Post. "What these guys believe is that there's a Jewish cabal, a Jewish conspiracy." Larry Franklin, who supplied Rosen with classified information as part of an FBI sting, was quoted Thursday in The Washington Times as saying that anti-Semitism "was part of this investigation and may have been an initial incitement of this investigation." He said FBI investigators "asked me about every Jew I knew" in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he worked as an Iran analyst and came into contact with Rosen and his co-worker Keith Weisman in their capacity as employees of AIPAC, which dismissed them after the charges were filed. Those charges were dropped by the government this spring. The 12-year sentence imposed on Franklin for passing on classified information was subsequently reduced to probation. "One agent said to me, 'How can an Irish Catholic from the Bronx get mixed up with all these...,' and I finished the sentence for him: 'Jews?' And I proceeded to tell him that Christ and all the apostles and even his mom were Jewish," Franklin also told the Times. "So it was that sort of thing. And just sarcastic turns of the phrase from time to time. You know, I felt dirty sometimes." The FBI did not respond to a Post request for comment by press time and the Times reported that FBI Assistant Director John Miller declined to address the charges of anti-Semitism. "We have no way to respond to third-hand characterizations of partial statements allegedly made by unnamed FBI employees several years ago," the Times quoted Miller as saying. "If Mr. Franklin would like to make a formal complaint about the conduct of any FBI employee, there is a process to do." Franklin also couldn't be reached by the Post for comment. Rosen, though, said he had heard statements similar to Franklin's from other individuals questioned in the multi-year probe, which lead to charges being filed in 2005. He took issue with the questions the FBI asked about why AIPAC officials such as himself were in touch with the Israeli Embassy or why US officials were in touch with AIPAC. "Why is that suspect? How could AIPAC not be in touch with the embassy of Israel?" he asked. "They were trying to put a stigma on the very idea of government officials talking to AIPAC." But Morris Amitay, who was executive director of AIPAC from 1974 to 1980, had a different take on the FBI questioning, which he himself also underwent. He recalled being asked, in connection to his former AIPAC role, "Why would you have contact with anyone at the Israeli Embassy?" But he chalked that up to "ignorance on the part of the FBI" and "a complete lack of sophistication," rather than pervasive anti-Semitism. "I think I was being asked stupid questions, not malicious questions," he said, adding that the interest of law enforcement officials in Israeli ties stems largely from the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former US Navy analyst who is serving a life sentence for passing secrets to Israel. Some officials have maintained that Pollard worked in collaboration with another, never-found, spy. Still, Rosen said the Jewish community needs to do more to counter the attitude toward Jews and Israel found in US counter-intelligence agencies. "There needs to be a systemic campaign" against these attitudes, he declared. "The organized community as a whole has left this job undone and it's time to do the job." Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, "We've been aware that there is a layer of bigotry. Government service is not immune." He pointed to meetings and complaints the ADL has pursued with government agencies, including the CIA and the Pentagon, over the treatment Jewish staff have received, particularly those with ties to Israel and Israelis who have had problems getting security clearances. He said that he would be willing to raise the issue raised by the AIPAC trial with the appropriate authorities as well, but that to do so required complaints by affected individuals. Franklin or others with direct knowledge of what the FBI had done "would have to be willing participants," he said. Still, Foxman was glad that Franklin had spoken up. "It's important. It raises the issue." Rosen also expressed satisfaction that Franklin was going public with his experience, particularly since Franklin is not Jewish. "I'm glad he's speaking out about it, because it's courageous to speak about it," he said. "I'm grateful because it's the truth and nobody's willing to say there's anti-Semitism inside agencies of the US government, when it's right there."•