The first reaction from Washington insiders to news reports that the
FBI was hot on the trail of an Israeli spy inside the Pentagon was
to wonder what a spy could possibly tell the Israelis they don’t
already know. Since this administration, most of the Congress and its
staff, and much of the media are all riddled with lobbyists for and
friends, sympathizers, and outright supporters of Israel, a spy for
Tel Aviv would be rather like the Maytag repairman. Who would bother
to call him?
Nevertheless, the news stories about what turns out to have been an
FBI counterintelligence investigation that started two years ago have
not gone away. Indeed, the more recent reports lend more credibility
to the Israeli spy theory than the earlier ones.
Lawrence Franklin, the Pentagon analyst named as the subject of the
investigation, works in the same office as his supervisor, Undersecretary
of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who is himself part of the now-notorious “cabal” of
neoconservative policy-makers who promoted war with Iraq from at least
the days after the 9/11 attacks. Along with Mr. Feith’s own boss,
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former Defense Policy Board
Chairman Richard Perle, and several others in the administration, they
are all part of a group that has been extremely close to the Israeli
government and especially to Ariel Sharon’s Likud government.
It is now clear that the investigation is interested in all of the
And they are not alone. Yet another figure surfacing in the case is
Michael Ledeen, also a prominent neoconservative, who was involved
in the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, when he served as the conduit
between the Israeli and U.S. governments in kicking off the whole covert
business. Now, Mr. Ledeen is reported to have held meetings with Mr.
Franklin and his old buddy from Iran-Contra days, Iranian Manucher
Ghorbanifar. It all gets curiouser and curiouser.
Mr. Ledeen himself denies that the smoke pouring out of the Israeli
spy case means there’s any fire. “They have no case,” he
insists. “If they have a case, why hasn’t anybody been
arrested or charged?”
Well, there might be a number of reasons, ranging from the obvious
(the investigation is far from complete) to the speculative (political
interference by some very powerful people inside the administration).
What people exactly? Well, some of the very ones at whom the FBI is
The Washington Post reports that FBI investigators “have specifically
asked about a group of neoconservatives involved in defense issues,” including
Mr. Feith, Mr. Wolfowitz, and “Iraq and Iran specialist Harold
Rhode and others at the Pentagon.” They also asked about Mr.
Perle and Vice President Cheney’s assistant David Wurmser, also
a neoconservative hawk. As Sherlock Holmes would say, the game’s
But the reaction to the whole story from both the subjects of the
investigation and their buddies in the neoconservative media has been
to deny everything and insinuate “anti-Semitism.”
“Friends and associates of the civilian group at the Pentagon,” the
New York Times reports, “believe they are under assault by adversaries
from within the intelligence community who have opposed them since
before the war in Iraq.”
The anti-Semitism card, always a favorite with neoconservatives, was
played almost immediately by neocon David Frum, the ex-speechwriter
for President Bush who gave the world the phrase axis
of evil, and
co-author of a recent book with Mr. Perle. Mr. Frum’s National
Review Online article that popped up immediately after the spy case
story broke was entitled “Jewish Conspiracies in the Pentagon?” Until
then no one had mentioned anything about Jews.
What Mr. Frum and the “friends and associates” of the
usual suspects in the Pentagon are saying seems to be virtually identical — as
Mr. Frum put it, it’s all those anti-Semites and “figures
inside the U.S. government who want to see Israel treated, not as the
ally it is by law and treaty ... but as the source of all the trouble
in the Middle East and the world.”
Well, maybe — though it might be helpful if Mr. Frum or somebody
could actually name someone inside the government who’s peddling “Jewish
conspiracy” theories or anti-Israeli policies. So far no one
has. Their first and apparently only concern is not to examine whether
American espionage laws have been broken and national security jeopardized
by spies working for a foreign power, but to deny, exonerate, and ignore
the whole story, lobbing their usual smears along the way.
But the shoes that fit are leaving footprints that lead straight back
to the Wolfowitz-Feith-Ledeen-Perle-Frum axis inside the Pentagon and
perhaps to a massive foreign espionage operation on the scale of the
Alger Hiss case of the 1940s. It would not be surprising if some very
powerful people don’t want those footprints followed too far.
[This column was originally published by Creators Syndicate Syndicate,
September 10, 2004]
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Political pundit Samuel Francis was an author
and syndicated columnist. A former deputy editorial page editor for
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, he received the Distinguished Writing Award
for Editorial Writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors
in both 1989 and 1990.
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