A front-page story in the Washington Post the next day added urgency by reporting, ?arrests in the case could come as early as next week.? Notice ?arrests.? Had the Post been tipped off to one arrest, the word used would not have been plural. And though that first article left open the possibility that Franklin might not be charged with espionage, subsequent Post stories later in the same week implied that the FBI might be on the verge of unraveling an entire network of dual loyalty spies for the Jewish state. To date, it appears that not even an investigation into those named individuals has been launched.
As leaked, it certainly sounded like espionage: classified information going through an intermediary from Mr. Franklin to Israel. Reports in the New York Times and elsewhere further indicate that neither AIPAC nor its two former officials are targets of the investigation anymore. If indeed they did pass classified information to a foreign government, though, then why not?
If anything, the May 3 indictment paints a picture of Mr. Franklin as sloppy and careless, not as a spy. He allegedly had some 83 classified documents in his home?a serious violation for one, let alone 83 (albeit over 30 years)?yet that implies someone who lacks proper respect for classification.
What seems at least as likely a theory as any other is that Mr. Franklin was attempting to harness the formidable lobbying power of AIPAC. He may have believed that by divulging some information, he could motivate the officials to take his view and twist arms to get the White House to finally take a tougher line on Iran. But until the wiretap of the fateful lunchtime conversation is aired in court, the public simply won?t know.
Such a theory would help explain why espionage was not charged. Espionage requires that classified information is collected at the behest of, or with the intent to benefit, a foreign power.
But Mr. Franklin?s name will forever be linked to espionage?because a pliant press regurgitated exactly what it was fed. Why didn?t the media ask why? Was the FBI trying to get a plea deal more to its liking? Or to taint a potential jury pool?
And what about political motivations from leakers at State and CIA who jumped on the bandwagon to suggest that ?certain people? who have a ?particular interest? in ?assisting Israel? might, too, be spies for the Jewish state?
Those smear-and-run victims?named on the front page of the Post?might have it worst of all: they might never be even formally investigated, yet which media outlet will help them get their reputations back?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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