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Pentagon analyst aggresive on iran convincted for espionage { January 20 2006 }

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January 20, 2006
Pentagon Analyst Gets 12-Year Sentence for Disclosing Data

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 - A federal judge sentenced a former Defense Department analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, to more than 12 years in prison today after Mr. Franklin admitted passing classified military information to two pro-Israel lobbyists and an Israeli diplomat.

The sentence meted out to Mr. Franklin, 59, by Judge T. S. Ellis III in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., was at the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines. Judge Ellis said at the hearing that he believed Mr. Franklin was motivated by a desire to help the United States, not to damage it.

Mr. Franklin's sentence, which included a fine of $10,000, was the first victory for the government in a case in which prosecutors have also indicted the two lobbyists with whom he shared classified information. The charges against Mr. Franklin and the two lobbyists are offenses under the Espionage Act, but none of the men have been accused of spying.

The lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, were senior staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, a pro-Israel lobbying organization with close relationships to officials in the Bush administration.

The case is unusual because of the charges against the lobbyists, who did not hold security clearances, were not government employees or representatives of a foreign government. They operated in a small circle of lobbyists who have commonly traded gossip and inside information with administration officials, Congressional aides and journalists.

Before his sentencing, Mr. Franklin pleaded guilty to three felony counts for improperly retaining and disclosing classified information in exchange for his cooperation and the government's willingness to drop three other charges against him. He will not have to begin serving his sentence until after the completion of legal proceedings against Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, who are scheduled to go on trial in April. That could lead prosecutors to agree to seek a reduction in Mr. Franklin's sentence, government official said.

Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman were charged in an indictment in August 2005 with conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to journalists and an unnamed foreign power that government officials identified as Israel. Aipac dismissed the two men in April 2005.

The indictment said the two men had disclosed classified information about a number of subjects, including American policy in Iran, terrorism in central Asia, Al Qaeda and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 Americans, mainly members of the military. Lawyers for the two men have sought to have the indictment against them dismissed.

As Aipac's director of foreign policy issues, Mr. Rosen was a well-known figure in Washington who helped the organization define its lobbying agenda on the Middle East and forged important relationships with powerful conservatives in the Bush administration. Mr. Weissman was a senior Middle East analyst. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman have denied any wrongdoing.

Mr. Franklin, who was regarded as an Iran expert, was among Bush administration conservatives who had pushed for an aggressive policy towards Iran, including a more confrontational approach to restrain its nuclear program.

Mr. Franklin worked at the Pentagon for a time under Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary at the agency. Mr. Franklin has said he developed a relationship with the two lobbyists in the belief that they had access to officials a the National Security Council and could communicate his views to senior officials there.

In addition to his meetings with the lobbyists, the government charged, Mr. Franklin also met with an Israeli embassy official and passed on secret military information about weapons tests in the Middle East and military activities in Iraq. He contended that the information was already known to the Israelis and that he obtained far more information than he gave away.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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