The growing 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
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Pentagon
investigations of close
collaboration between prominent
US neo-conservatives and Israel dating back some 30
According to knowledgeable sources, who
asked to not be identified, the FBI has been intensively
reviewing a series of past counter-intelligence probes
that were started against several high-profile neo-cons,
but which were never followed up with prosecutions, to
the great frustration of counter-intelligence officers,
in some cases.
Some of these past investigations
involve top current officials, including Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Under Secretary 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 last year.
All three were the
subject of a lengthy investigative story by Stephen
Green, published by Counterpunch in February. Green is
the author of two books on US-Israeli relations,
including Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations
with a Militant Israel, which relies heavily on
interviews with former Pentagon and counter-intelligence
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 US, in
some cases with the help of prominent neo-conservatives
who were then serving in the government.
that equipment has been sold by Israel - which in the
past 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 US 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 Europe.
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.
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.
to one source, Pentagon investigators believe it
possible that al-Qaeda used the software to spy on
various US agencies that could have detected or foiled
the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The FBI is
reportedly also involved in the Pentagon's
investigation, which is overseen by Deputy Under
Secretary of Defense for International Technology
Security John A "Jack" Shaw, with the explicit support
of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
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 US 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
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 neo-conservatives, 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.
of the office's strategy included working closely with
the Iraqi National Congress (INC) led by now-disgraced
exile Ahmad 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
Since the Iraq war, Feith's
office has also lobbied hard within the US government
for a confrontational posture vis-a-vis Iran and Syria,
including actions aimed at destabilizing both
governments - policies which, in addition to the ousting
of Saddam, have been strongly and publicly urged by
prominent, hardline neo-conservatives, 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 neo-conservatives, 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
In December 2001, Rhode and Franklin
met in Europe with a shadowy Iranian arms dealer,
Manichur 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 neo-conservatives, 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 Binyamin
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.
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
But Perle, who was then serving as
assistant secretary of defense for international
security policy, which, among other responsibilities,
had an important say in approving or denying licenses to
export sensitive military or dual-use technology abroad,
hired Feith 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.
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 US 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, which enforced regulations
regarding technology transfer to foreign countries.
During his tenure, according to one source with
personal knowledge of Bryen's work, "The US 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." This is 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 the US 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."
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 US weapons system to
an Arab government to an Israeli official via an AIPAC
In 1992, when he was serving as under
secretary 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 re-sales.
The FBI and
the Pentagon are reportedly taking a new look at all of
these incidents and others, in the words of a New York
Times story on Sunday, to "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 broader puzzle.