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Conyers Calls for Hearings on Israel Spy Case

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, is calling for open hearings on the latest leak involving a Pentagon analyst accused in the press by anonymous sources of spying for Israel.
Publication:The New York Sun; Date:Sep 2, 2004; Section:National; Page:13

Conyers Calls for Hearings on 'Spy' Case

By ELI LAKE Staff Reporter of the Sun


WASHINGTON The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is calling for open hearings on the latest leak involving a Pentagon analyst accused in the press by anonymous sources of spying for Israel.

In an August 31 letter that his staff made public yesterday, Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat of Michigan, wrote that it was not yet known whether the analyst in question, Larry Franklin "was acting at the behest of his superiors," speculating that a "rogue element in the American government may have been working with a foreign government."

The letter was released as the New York Sun learned that the FBI investigation into Mr. Franklin and the alleged leaking of a draft Iran policy paper may be significantly scaled back.

According to sources familiar with the investigation,the U.S.district attorney in charge of the probe, Paul McNulty, has ordered the FBI not to move forward with arrests that they were prepared to make last Friday when the story broke on CNN and CBS. "He put the brakes on it in order to look at it," a source familiar with the investigation told the Sun. "To see what was there. Basically the FBI wanted to start making arrests and McNulty said 'Woa, based on what? Let's look at this before you do anything.'"

Mr. Franklin's security clearances were revoked in June, according to administration officials, and the FBI has tailed two staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for at least a year. Early press reports alleged Mr. Franklin passed the draft policy paper to those Aipac officials. The two Aipac Iran analysts, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have retained a well known criminal defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, for counsel.

Mr. McNulty was only assigned the case by Attorney General Ashcroft last Friday when federal agents came to Aipac's offices in Washington to request files and hard drives. "Ashcroft wanted to make sure this case was being handled properly," the source familiar with the probe said. "I would not expect any action on this for at least three weeks." This source added that a grand jury is now being selected, but it was likely the charges,initially reported as espionage, would be scaled back to the mishandling of classified information.

Senator Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday that Mr. Ashcroft should launch an investigation into who leaked the name of the target of the FBI probe. "I know Aipac, I know its integrity," he said. "It's a smear."

A former FBI counterterrorism official who left the bureau in 2003, Kenneth Piernick, told the Sun yesterday that for the FBI to leak Mr. Franklin's name before an indictment was handed down was highly unusual. "I can't think of a circumstance where this sort of thing would be appropriate. In all the investigations I ever did, I never had reason to divulge the subject of the investigation before an indictment."

Mr. Conyers's letter requesting the hearing to the committee chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican of Wisconsin, repeats many of the most extreme charges against the undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, that have been leveled by anonymous sources in press reports for the last two years. A spokesman for Mr. Sensenbrenner yesterday told the Sun that no hearings were scheduled as a result of Mr. Conyers's request.

Mr. Conyers writes, "it now appears that these allegations may be only the tip of the iceberg of a broader effort of Pentagon employees working in the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, to conduct unauthorized covert activities, without the knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency."

While Mr. Conyers at no point mentions Aipac or even Israel in his letter, the focus of his probe is Bush administration officials often singled out by their critics as "neoconservatives."

For example he asks whether Pentagon officials, or members of the vice president's staff, passed information to the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, that would compromise America's breaking of "Iranian communications codes."In May,the National Security Agency made the case that Mr. Chalabi has done just that, though no American officials have gone on the record. Mr. Chalabi has sued the Kingdom of Jordan, which he says is the source of the story.

Despite a public report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released in July that concludes most of the poor intelligence on Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction derived from the CIA, Mr. Conyers asks, "Did Pentagon officials illegally obtain and disseminate false intelligence information to further the (now discredited) assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction?" He also asks, "What role (if any) did officials in the NSC, including Elliott Abrams, have in these actions?" Mr. Abrams was a figure in Congress's investigation of the Iran-Contra affair during President Reagan's second administration.

Mr. Conyers also says he would like the hearings to focus on what he calls "unauthorized meetings with foreign nationals, including Iranian and Syrian nationals, to plan or direct covert activities against foreign governments." He specifically mentions "known Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar."

The executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said that it was not the right time for Congressional investigations. "This is not the time for congressional investigations, the facts have to be ascertained," he said. "Then there will be time for many hard questions about how this was handled, the timing and the accuracy of the information."

The spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, David Siegel, said his office's work was proceeding despite the flap."We have yet to hear anything official from the administration on this investigation.Our work with the administration on all levels continues as usual," Mr. Siegel said.

homepage: homepage: http://daily.nysun.com/Repository/getmailfiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=NYS/2004/09/02&ID=Ar01300
address: address: The New York Sun

Text of Rep. John Conyers' Letter 03.Sep.2004 19:45

( .pdf document)

August 31, 2004

The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I write to ask that the Judiciary Committee commence an immediate full investigation and examine substantial and credible evidence that Pentagon officials have engaged in criminal wrongdoing in their handling of classified material and have engaged in unauthorized covert activities.

Press reports have recently disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently examining whether a Pentagon analyst, Larry Franklin, illegally passed along a classified document involving the policy of the United States toward Iran. It is not yet known whether Mr. Franklin was acting on his own, or whether he was acting at the behest of his superiors. The fact that a rogue element of the United States government may have been working with a foreign government in possible contravention of current foreign policy is a grave matter that should be of concern to every American.

Unfortunately, based on media accounts, it now appears that these allegations may be only the tip of the iceberg of a broader effort of Pentagon employees working in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, to conduct unauthorized covert activities, without the knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency. According to press accounts, it also appears that these activities may have involved other disclosures of classified information to foreign governments (1) and the falsification of documents.(2) In addition, these activities may well constitute criminal misappropriation of federal funds.(3) All of these allegations, if true, involve potential violations of federal criminal law and are, therefore, within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.

To fully investigate these allegations, I would suggest that the Committee examine the following questions:

(1) Did Pentagon officials illegally give classified information to members of the Iraqi National Congress or to discredited Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi? Were White House officials, including officials in the Office of the Vice President, aware of such activities? Did Mr. Chalabi then pass along such materials, including information that the United States had broken Iran's communications codes, to Iran?

(2) Did Pentagon officials illegally obtain and disseminate false intelligence information to further the (now discredited) assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction? Were Pentagon officials either the conduits for or originators of documents claiming Iraq had made efforts to acquire such records, including fraudulent documents claiming Iraq had attempted to buy weapons grade uranium from Niger? Were White House officials, including officials in the Office of the Vice President, aware of such activities? What role (if any) did officials in the NSC, including Elliott Abrams, have in these actions?

(3) Did Pentagon officials conduct illegal and unauthorized meetings with foreign nationals, including Iranian and Syrian nationals, to plan or direct covert activities against foreign governments? Did Pentagon officials provide monetary or other assistance to such foreign nationals, including a known arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar? Did such meetings involve any foreign intelligence officials, including the head of Italian military intelligence (SISMI), or other foreign military officials? What role (if any) did officials in the NSC, including Elliott Abrams, have in these actions?

(4) Did Pentagon officials obtain information about the covert status of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame? Was such information obtained illegally? Was such information illegally shared with White House officials, including officials in the Office of the Vice President?

While I am fully cognizant that many of these activities may be the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, there is ample precedent that such an investigation does not preclude, and will not be interfered with as a result of, a concurrent congressional investigation. Recently, when allegations were made about the mishandling of classified information in the National Archives by a former Clinton administration official, you and other Committee chairmen affirmed this principle.

I urge you to treat this request with the utmost importance. These matters may well constitute the greatest subversion of our democracy and compromising of our national security since the Iran-Contra affair. It is of paramount importance that our committee begin work on this matter immediately.

Thank you for your attention to this request. If you or your staff have any questions, please contact me, Perry Apelbaum or Ted Kalo of my Judiciary staff at 225-6504.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member

(1) 18 USC sec. 793 (Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information); 18 USC 794 (Gathering or delivering defense information or aid to a foreign government).

(2) Id.

(3) 50 USC 504 stipulates that no appropriated funds could be used for covert activities "until the president finds that each such action is important to the national security of the United States and reports, in a timely fashion, a description of such operations to the appropriate congressional committees." See also 31 USC 1301.


unclear on the concept. 04.Sep.2004 11:05

this thing here

>The executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said that it was not the right time for Congressional investigations. "This is not the time for congressional investigations, the facts have to be ascertained," he said. "Then there will be time for many hard questions about how this was handled, the timing and the accuracy of the information."<

but the whole purpose of "many hard questions" IS to ascertain the facts.