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September 30, 2005
AIPAC Central Figure Pleas Out, Will Testify

The central figure in the AIPAC espionage scandal has accepted a plea bargain and will testify against the operatives that passed classified intelligence to Israel, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times today. Lawrence Franklin has all but signed the paperwork, his attorney said, and the Post's sources confirm his agreement to testify against his co-conspirators:

A Defense Department analyst charged with passing government secrets to two employees of an influential pro-Israel lobbying group plans to plead guilty at a hearing next week, court officials announced yesterday.

Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, will enter his plea in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday, the court said. Sources familiar with the case said Franklin is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy and possibly to other counts. He also is planning to resume his cooperation with prosecutors, they said. ...

If Franklin enters a plea, it will be a major development in a long-running investigation into whether classified U.S. information was provided to the Israeli government. The two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, have also been charged, and Franklin could be a key witness against them. The two AIPAC employees were fired after their alleged contact with Franklin.

Originally, Franklin cooperated with the FBI in its investigation into AIPAC, but then discovered that he could get charged with associated crimes as well, and lawyered up. He hired a big-gun attorney, Plato Cacheris, who rarely gets involved just to make arrangements for his clients to serve time. The NY Times points out that the type of activity for which Franklin will plead guilty -- especially conspiracy to transmit classified information to a foreign government -- rarely results in a suspended sentence.

Will Cacheris get Franklin completely off the hook? Hopefully not. Anyone who reveals classified intelligence information to spies, regardless of the nationality of the agents involved or for whom they work, should do some real time behind bars. On the other hand, the government appears to feel that the former AIPAC operatives, Steven Rosen and Keith Weisman, have more importance as targets of prosecution than Franklin. Why? They want to ensure that the spies have no more opportunity to find another dupe to give them the material they want, especially on Iran during this sensitive period when we negotiate the next step with the EU-3.

Espionage is espionage. If Israel spies on us and gets caught, too bad; their agents don't get a free pass at our classified data unless our elected officials approve it. Weisman and Rosen may soon join Jonathan Pollard in belatedly recognizing that fact of American life, and like Pollard, they will likely have many years to reflect on that fact.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 30, 2005 5:07 AM

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