Spy Probe Scans Neocons
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. neo-conservatives and Israel dating back
some 30 years.
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 neo-cons but never followed up with prosecutions,
to the great frustration of counter-intelligence officers, in some
of these past investigations involve top current officials, including
Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defence
for Policy Douglas Feith, whose office appears to be the focus of
the most recently disclosed inquiry; and Richard Perle, who resigned
as Defence Policy Board (DPB) chairman last year.
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 U.S.-Israeli relations, including Taking
Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel,
which relies heavily on interviews with former Pentagon and counter-intelligence
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 neo-conservatives who were then serving
in the government.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Sep. 11, 2001 attack.
FBI is reportedly also involved in the Pentagon's investigation,
which is overseen by Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for International
Technology Security John A. "Jack" Shaw with the explicit
support of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
latest incident is based on allegations that a Defence 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.
has not commented on the allegation, and Israel and AIPAC have strongly
denied any involvement and say they are co-operating fully with
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.
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).
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 destabilising both governments
policies which, in addition to the ousting of Hussein, have been
strongly and publicly urged by prominent, hard-line neo-conservatives,
such as Perle, Feith and Perle's associate at the American Enterprise
Institute (AEI), Michael Ledeen, among others.
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 on Islam.
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."
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
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.
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 favour, 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 (198189),
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.
Perle, who was then serving as assistant secretary of defence 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.
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 United States and Israel and one in which Perle, Feith and Ledeen
have long been active.
his position as Perle's deputy, Bryen created the Defence Technology
Security Administration (DTSA) which enforced regulations regarding
technology transfer to foreign countries.
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.
Armitage was raising serious questions about Bryen's approval of
sensitive exports to Israel without appropriate vetting by other
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
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 authorised
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.
1992, when he was serving as undersecretary of defence for policy,
Pentagon officials looking into the unauthorised 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.
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."
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.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service