FBI investigators briefed key White House and congressional officials in recent days on their investigation of the Pentagon mole on suspicions of turning over classified policy documents to Israel.
Starting Friday, FBI officials briefed top officials at the White House’s National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the congressional intelligence committees.
FBI started its investigation more than a year ago into whether Larry Franklin, a Defense Department analyst passed on policy documents – including a draft presidential directive on Iran – to Israel via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
FBI Sources said that federal prosecutors were actively considering whether to bring charges as early as this week or next week.
Both Israel and AIPAC denied the allegations as baseless and false.
The FBI stepped up its investigation on Friday, when it met with two officials at AIPAC and asked them about their contacts with the Pentagon analyst.
IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s and AIPAC friends in the congress stood to defend both and play down the issue.
Reps. Roy Blunt of Missouri said in a written statement that the House ‘will want to look carefully at any allegations that might endanger our national security.’, but added Ã¢â‚¬Å“It will begin that look with a record of great confidence in our relationship with AIPAC and our strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel.’
According to American official sources, Franklin, who holds close relations with many Israel officials, handed classified documents to Israeli officials, but without the prior knowledge of how damaging his act was.
According to Newsweek, the story began as FBI closely monitored an Israeli embassy operative and a member in the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC. Franklin was seen joining both at lunch in a Washington restaurant.
FBI agents placed him under surveillance, and spotted him attempting to hand a document to another person, who was not named, but that person refused to receive the document and asked Franklin for an oral briefing on its content.
Franklin is known to belong to the pro-Israel Ã¢â‚¬Å“hawksÃ¢â‚¬Â in the Pentagon.
On Sunday the FBI broaden the probe to include interviews at the State and Defense departments and with Middle East affairs specialists outside the government.
The alleged Pentagon spy was identified as Larry Franklin, a desk officer in the Defense Department’s Near East and South Asia Bureau, who worked with undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith.
The New York Times reported that Franklin shared creating the report on the relation between Iraq and Al-Qaida, which formed a base for launching the war on Iraq, and was later criticized by intelligence professionals.
CBS also reported that FBI investigators are concerned that Israel may have used Franklin in an effort to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq.
U.S. Defense Department said Saturday that the mole would not have had any influence on decision-making at that level.
The Franklin affair is expected to cause serious damage to Israel’s image and obstruct its working relations with the administration, especially as it rose up in a crucial period ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
The issue that the Current U.S. administration fabricated intelligence information around Iraq-Al-Qaida relations to justify launching the war against Iraq is a hot election debate.
Reports on the Franklin affair present the Bush administration as weak and easy to manipulate, even to the level of launching a superfluous war; an image that is harmful on electionsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ eve.
Even if Democrats refrains from using the case against the Bush Administration, U.S. officials, over fears of inquires or surveillance, will think twice before talking to Israeli colleagues or AIPAC representatives.
AIPAC will be the party who will suffer most. The reported direct involvement of committee officials in the Franklin affairs will set to question the legitimacy of the dual loyalty that the committee represents.